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NHL: Sluggish Caps rally, top Flames
WASHINGTON—The Washington Capitals escaped a three-goal deficit in the first period with a tying power-play goal by Nicklas Backstrom late in the third, and Alex Ovechkin and Mikhail Grabovski each scored shootout goals to ensure a
5–4 victory over the Calgary Flames in the home opener at Verizon Center.
Ovechkin scored two goals in the second period, including one on the power play, for the Capitals, who rebounded from an exhausting season-opening road loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday.
“I would say we really got outworked in the first period,” head coach Adam Oates said. “Maybe Chicago affected us more than we thought it would. For the first game of the year, it was a pretty emotional game.”
Goaltender Michal Neuvirth allowed only one goal on 28 shots, entering the game late in the first period after Oates pulled starter Braden Holtby from the game.
Holtby allowed three goals in the first 16:22 before leaving the game, and though he also gave up five goals in 34 shots in the opener on Tuesday, Oates said Holtby would be the starter again on Saturday when the Capitals play the Dallas Stars on the road.
Calgary, playing its first game of the season, scored its first goal 5:18 in, when a shot by winger David Jones went off Holtby’s left shoulder and into the net. The Flames added a second goal five minutes later when right wing Lee Stempniak put back a rebound off a shot by defenseman Mark Giordano, and the third goal, on the power play, was a blast from the right point by right wing Jiri Hudler.
“You know you’ve got to be ready as a backup, and you know, I was ready,” Neuvirth said.
Connor Carrick, a 19-year-old who impressed enough in training camp for the Capitals to keep him on their opening roster, scored his first goal 7:30 into the second period. He had just gotten out of the box after a hooking penalty when he thought about going for a change, but instead corralled a pass from Marcus Johansson just in front of the Flames’ blue line and darted to the net.
He shook goaltender Karri Ramo with a nifty deke to his left before tucking the puck just inside the right pipe.
“I was pretty upset to have the penalty, so I was trying to have one go the other way,” said Carrick, who was treated to a shaving-cream pie by Ovechkin in the locker room. “JoJo made a nice play, and I caught it clean. I almost fell and I almost lost the puck, but I ended up finding the back of the net.”
Winger Lance Bouma, who laid a hit on defenseman Jack Hillen that caused him to leave the game, pushed the Flames’ lead to 4–1 with a goal 9:05 into the second period. But Ovechkin then scored his two goals to draw the Capitals within one, first scoring on a point shot on the power play 11:24 before driving in a faceoff winner
by Backstrom four minutes later.
The Capitals then fought through three penalties—they killed four of Calgary’s five power plays—before Backstrom tied the score 14:10 into the third period when he flicked a wrister past Ramo.
The Flames spent most of the five-minute overtime in the Capitals’ zone but were unable to score. Their two choices for the shootout—Sven Baertschi and Hudler—each had their attempts stopped by Neuvirth.
Hillen, who was chasing a loose puck in the Capitals’ own end 8:10 into the first period, has a lower-body injury, Oates said. He had been taken to the hospital for additional examinations.
Ramo finished with 35 saves on 39 shots. Ovechkin took 11 shots, with three others blocked and three more missing the net.
The Capitals claimed defenseman Alexander Urbom off waivers from the New Jersey Devils earlier in the day and assigned center Michael Latta to Hershey. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Urbom has played in 14 games over three seasons for the Devils, including one last year. Latta played 6:04 in his NHL début on Tuesday and took one shot.
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