Welcome back boys and girls and babes, it’s time for Washington Capitals hockey! That’s right, after over 300 days without a regular season Caps game, the boys are back. The Caps, now featuring Zdeno Chara, opened their season tonight in Buffalo, facing a Sabres team that got a bit of an offseason upgrade in the name of Taylor Hall. It got a bit dicey at times, but the Capitals walked away with a 6-4 win.
Here’s Thursday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: Caps hockey is back, y’all. Also, six different Caps scored goals in tonight’s game - that distributed offense is an excellent sign.
Minus: In a messy third period, Nic Dowd made a late and high hit on Eric Staal. While it only led to a two-minute minor for roughing, it wouldn’t be a shock to hear tomorrow that NHL Player Safety is taking a look at this one.
And now, please enjoy...you know what I’m just going to embed the tweet:
Twelve more notes on the game:
1. First Capitals goal of the season alert! What better way to start the season than with a classic Backstrom-to-Ovechkin goal? Wait, hold on...Ovechkin to Backstrom, you say? That’s right folks, Nicklas Backstrom tallied the first goal of the season for the Caps off a pass from Alex Ovechkin. It also happens to be Backstrom’s first goal in a season opener since he began his career in 2007.
Ovi --> Backy we love to see it pic.twitter.com/SqJgsbmchz— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 15, 2021
2. With 11:30 to go, T.J. Oshie was called for elbowing on Curtis Lazar and took a seat in the sin bin. Just 18 seconds into their power play, newly minted Sabre Taylor Hall got Buffalo on the board after Victor Olofsson made Ilya Samsonov pause just long enough to open up the shooting lane. The Caps’ penalty kill looked...rough, to say the least. If they want a speedy PK unit, throwing Zdeno Chara on the ice might not be the best choice.
3. Less than a minute later, we got our first look at the Capitals power play this season when Rasmus Dahlin was called for holding on Tom Wilson. After two (yes, two!) solid zone entries on the man advantage, T.J. Oshie slid the rebound from an Ovechkin one-timer past Carter Hutton for his first goal of the season.
4. Nic Dowd took a trip to the box for an offensive-zone holding penalty less than three minutes into the second period. The Sabres had a few good chances but fortunately the Caps’ PK looked much better the second time around. Dowd even had a breakaway opportunity as soon as he came out of the box, but he fumbled the puck and wasn’t able to get a shot off.
5. John Carlson gave the Caps a 3-1 lead after an unfortunate coverage breakdown from the Sabres that led to a bit of a breakaway opportunity for Carlson. Oshie picked up an assist on the goal, his third point of the night. This marks Oshbabe’s 33rd career three-point game!
6. Colin Miller gave the Caps their second power play opportunity of the night when he got called for cross-checking on Carl Hagelin, and there’s just one thing to say about what happened next: DILLY DILLY! That’s right, Brenden Dillon finally has his first goal as a Capital (and his first goal since December 12, 2019) with a blast from just below the blue line. Another first on the goal: Conor Sheary has his first point as a Cap with the primary assist on the play.
Dilly Dilly from the point! pic.twitter.com/Sgj9pp0EGJ— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 15, 2021
7. Tobias Rieder got one back for the Sabres with 1:14 to go in the second after Samsonov reached a bit too far to cover the puck during a flurry in front of the net and ended up twisting himself out of position. It gave Rieder just enough room to maneuver around the net and send the puck in.
8. 20 seconds into the third period, the Sabres pulled within one after Jake McCabe fired a slapshot past Samsonov. Not an ideal start to the period for the Caps...
9. Man if you were getting a refill and were late to the third period you missed quite the 46 seconds of hockey because Jakub Vrana restored the Caps’ two-goal lead just 26 seconds later off a rough turnover by Eric Staal in front of Hutton. Fun fact: Vrana scored his first-ever NHL goal in Buffalo.
10. Dowd took a second trip to the box tonight after a roughing call against Staal. The hit was late and to the head, and Staal immediately went to the locker room. Not great, Dowd, not great.
Nic Dowd gets two for an illegal check to the head on Eric Staal. Looks like he misses body as well, makes head only point of contact. Staal to locker room pic.twitter.com/VKEgHpil5h— NHL Safety Watch (@NHLSafetyWatch) January 15, 2021
11. With under five minutes to go, Dillon and McCabe dropped the gloves in the Capitals’ zone. Victory went to noted goal scorer Brenden Dillon, who was unfortunately unavailable for a Gordie Howe hatty because of his five-minute fighting major.
12. The Sabres got back within one with just under two minutes to go in the game. With Hutton pulled for a sixth attacker, Victor Olofsson fired a puck past Samsonov. However, Garnet Hathaway tallied an empty netter a minute later to secure a Capitals win.
Up next for the Caps: right back to the ice at KeyBank Center for the second half of the back-to-back against the Sabres.