When in the car with Ovechkin, wear your seat belt
The Capitals’ locker room was filled with smiling faces Thursday night after their pulsating 5-4 shootout victory over the young but plucky Calgary Flames.
Rookie defenseman and first-time goal scorer Connor Carrick was covered in shaving cream, compliments of captain Alex Ovechkin.
Ovechkin was giddy after scoring his second and third goals of the season, along with another in the shootout, proving last season’s MVP season was no fluke.
But there were also some serious ramifications from Thursday night’s victory.
Defenseman Jack Hillen spent much of the evening in a nearby hospital after taking a bone-crushing hit from Lance Bouma early in the first period.
And goaltender Braden Holtby had plenty of time to ponder how he surrendered three goals on 11 shots, resulting in his first yanking of the season.
Capitals coach Adam Oates said that despite Holtby’s rough outing and Michal Neuvirth’s strong showing [27 saves on 28 shots] he’ll “absolutely” go back to Holtby Saturday night in Dallas when the Caps return to action.
“Everybody has hiccups. Everybody,” Oates said. “He’s got to understand that to me, that’s what it is.”
Oates did not minimize the impact Neuvirth had on Thursday night’s game. Aside from a miscue behind his net that led to Calgary’s fourth goal, he was flawless in his season debut.
“I think Michal is very underrated,” Oates sad. “He comes in and he’s always calm and poised. He just kind of locked it down.”
Oates did not have much of a medical update on Hillen, who appeared to suffer serious damage to his right hip, leg or knee.
“He’s going to be out for a bit,” Oates said, “but I don’t want to speculate.”
Oates said he thought the emotions of Tuesday night’s 6-4 loss in Chicago took a toll on his team in the opening period, saying the Caps looked “stale” en route to a 3-0 deficit.
Like they did in Chicago, the Caps used their vaunted power play to climb back in the game, getting a pair of goals by Ovechkin to get to within 4-3 and sending the game into overtime on Nicklas Backstrom’s power play goal.
“If you give us a chance we’re gonna score,” Ovechkin said. ”We know we have enough skill. We just have to do what the coaches ask us to do.”
More than 30 minutes after the game Carrick still had shaving cream on his head and a smile on his face. His breakaway goal midway through the second period started the Caps’ comeback.
He busted out of the penalty box, took a pass from Marcus Johansson and beat Ramo with a nifty forehand-to-backhand deke.
“I was going through some scenarios in my head,” Carrick said of his thoughts in the penalty box. “That’s the one you always dream of.”
Backstrom said the victory was a sweet one, regardless of how it happened.
“It means a lot, especially after that slow start,” Backstrom said. “We were sloppy there in the beginning. We weren’t sharp, so it’s always good to have a comeback like this. It’s early but these points are very important.”