CHICAGO – Instant analysis of the Capitals’ season-opening 6-4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks Tuesday night at the UnitedCenter:
Game in a nutshell: Mikhail Grabovski recorded three goals and one assist and Nicklas Backstrom added three power-play assists, but it wasn’t enough as the Blackhawks erased a third-period deficit with back-to-back goals by Brandon Saad and Johnny Oduya for the win. As lethal as the Caps’ power play was, it failed to score on a 5-on-3 for 80 seconds late in the third period, thanks to some big saves by Corey Crawford, including a big one on Eric Fehr. Marian Hossa finished it off when he was credit with an empty-netter.
Oh what a night: Grabovski showed his speed and his hands with his second-period goal and first as a Capital. After Joel Ward won a battle against Duncan Keith along the defensive boards Grabovski streaked down the middle of the ice, used Jason Chimera as a decoy and beat Corey Crawford high gloveside. He also got his stick on a pair of Mike Green power-play blasts for his second and third goals of the night. An assist on Alex Ovechkin’s power-play goal gave him a four-point night.
Ovi on the attack: Alex Ovechkin’s first-period power play goal was his fifth goal and ninth point in nine career season openers. Ovechkin’s goal came from a very familiar spot, inside the left circle, where Mikhail Grabovski found him after playing catch with Nicklas Backstrom.
Tough night: Caps rookie Connor Carrick had a rough start. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder was outmuscled by 6-foot-2, 223-pound winger Brandon Bollig on the Hawks’ first goal; and his hooking penalty with 6:53 remaining in the second period led to Brent Seabrook’s power-play goal that gave Chicago a 3-2 lead. Carrick also played a role in Brandon Saad’s game-tying goal 7:55 into the third period, getting crossed up with John Erskine as Saad slipped behind them for a tap-in from Michal Handzus.
Power patrol: There were no big surprises on the Caps’ special teams. The first power-play unit had Mike Green on the point, Ovechkin in the left circle, Grabovski on the right goal line, Backstrom on the right halfwall, and Troy Brouwer in the slot. The second unit saw a little bit of Marty Erat, Brooks Laich, Eric Fehr, John Carlson and Jack Hillen.
Killers: The Caps’ penalty killing units had Joel Ward and Jason Chimera with John Erskine and Carlson; and Laich and Brouwer with Green and Karl Alzner. Marty Erat and Michael Latta also saw kill time.
Teenage hasteland: When 19-year-olds Tom Wilson and Carrick made the opening-night roster it marked the first time the Caps had two teenagers on their opening roster since 2003-04 when Steve Eminger and Boyd Gordon were 19-year-olds. Prior to that it was 18-year-old Scott Stevens and 19-year-old Bobby Carpenter who started a youth movement in 1982-83. The last time the Caps had three rookies in their lineup was in 2010 when John Carlson, Marcus Johansson and Michal Neuvirth came on board.
Look ahead: The Caps will return to practice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Wednesday, tentatively set for 11 a.m. They face Dennis Wideman and the Calgary Flames in their home opener Thursday night at VerizonCenter.