Leafs Look To Play Spoilers In Caps Home Opener
Saturday, 10.03.2009 / 7:00 PM
Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals left the ice feeling heart-broken the last time they played a meaningful game at the Verizon Center.
They'll enter this one feeling very good.
Ovechkin and the Capitals are coming off an impressive season opener going into the first game of their home schedule Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Last season saw Washington win a playoff series for the first time in 11 years, but it ended on a sour note as the Capitals lost 6-2 at home to Pittsburgh in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Ovechkin scored but it came after the Capitals trailed 5-0.
Ovechkin's regular-season debut, and that of his team, did nothing to show Washington won't be a Stanley Cup contender again.
Ovechkin got off to a quick start in his quest for a third consecutive Hart Trophy as league MVP, scoring twice in a 4-1 victory at Boston on Thursday night.
"We want to be on top of everybody," said Ovechkin, who led the league last season with 56 goals.
Brooks Laich had two power-play goals and an assist while the Capitals held Boston - the top team in the East during the 2008-09 regular season - scoreless in five chances with the man advantage.
"If you could bottle that game up, we'd take it," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Every night."
Boudreau also was pleased with the performance of Jose Theodore, who was pulled in last season's opener and ended up losing the starting job to rookie Semyon Varlamov after the first game of the playoffs. Theodore made 19 saves Thursday and came within 12:04 of a shutout.
It seems likely he'll be back in net as Washington tries to win its eighth straight home opener.
The Capitals started 18-1-1 at home last season, with Ovechkin totaling 18 goals and 13 assists. They ended up matching Boston for the second-most home wins (29) during the regular season but went 4-4 in the playoffs at the Verizon Center.
Toronto has missed the last four postseasons but came away somewhat encouraged from its opener despite losing, 4-3 in overtime to Montreal on Thursday.
The Maple Leafs led 3-2 on Matt Stajan's second-power play goal midway through the third period, but the Canadiens tied the game with 4:10 remaining.
"I think we were the better team tonight, and fell short," defenseman Mike Komisarek
said. "We didn't get two points. Next time, we'll find a way to win and get the two points."
Komisarek was among Toronto's top acquisitions in the offseason, signing a five-year deal worth $22.5 million. The All-Star was very assertive in the opener, but that also cost his new team. Facing his former club, Komisarek had a fighting major against the Canadiens and took five minor penalties - the last of which set up the power play on which Montreal scored the tying goal.
Still, Leafs coach Ron Wilson thought Komisarek set a good example for his teammates.
"Mike answered the bell, and he'll continue to do so," Wilson said. "We need more of our defensemen to respond as aggressively and quickly as Mike did."
Washington won the first two meetings between the teams last season but Toronto won the last two, including a 3-2 victory in the final matchup as Ovechkin was stopped on the Capitals' final shootout attempt.