THE RESULT: The Washington Capitals, who were outworked and outplayed in the season opener Friday night in Atlanta, shook off a listless first period by scoring four unanswered goals in the second period, chasing future Hall of Fame goalie Martin Brodeur and defeating the New Jersey Devils 7-2, before a sellout 18,398 at Verizon Center.
The Caps added two more in the third, and as you might imagine at the end of a 7-2 game, things got interesting -- then out of hand -- with five total fights in the third frame, and four in the last five minutes.
Alex Ovechkin scored twice, including on a penalty shot, and had an assist, and John Carlson had a goal, two assists, and one stand-up for teammate Marcus Johannson late in the game.
With the game well out of hand, the third period saw a succession of fights, but none more ridiculous than the last. Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, a generic, run-of-the-mill thug, twice asked Johansson, the smallest guy on the ice playing in his second NHL game if he wanted to go. After the drop, LeBlond chased Johansson to center ice, where he jumped him anyway.
"He asked me at the faceoff if I wanted to go, and I said, 'No,' and he just chased me down the ice," Johansson said of Leblond. "I'm happy the guys stood up for me."
John Carlson was the first one in on behalf of his teammate.
"I don't want to say too much, but if you're gonna pick anyone on the ice I wouldn't pick an 18, 19-year old kid out there in his second game in the NHL."
Johansson turned 20 last week (Oct. 6). Carlson turned 20 in January.
Coach Bruce Boudreau was asked what he was yelling at Devils coach John MacLean during the fracas, which eventually involved all the skaters on the ice.
"I was just saying, 'What are you doing?' Under five minutes, that's an expensive venture. We're the least fighting major team in the league and we didn't have D.J. King in the lineup. We accepted the challenges because we're a group that accepts challenges."
Letourneau-Leblond's instigator penalty will result in an automatic one-game suspension and $10,000 fine for MacLean.
THE GOOD: Everyone knows the Capitals can turn it on with the best of them. But the unsung hero tonight was Michal Neuvirth. He kept the Caps in this game through the first period and beginning of the second while the Caps were finding their legs. Neuvy made 31 saves on 33 shots -- 17 in the second period when the Washington was outshot 17-9, but scored four goals on the nine shots.
THE BAD: As painful as it is to say it, Martin Brodeur. In a word, the veteran was terrible tonight. The first goal of the game was a medium-hard wrister from Carlson just inside the blue line, and Brodeur just whiffed on it. Jason Chimera beat him between the blocker and his body from the top of the circle. Brodeur just didn't have it tonight.
THE UGLY: The last five minutes of the game. John MacLean should be ashamed of himself. It's bad enough that was had to see the string of bouts, but sending a fighter out to attack Johansson was just gutless and pathetic.
NEXT GAME: Monday night at 7:00 pm against Ottawa.
CAPS NEWS NETWORK's THREE STARS OF THE GAME
3. Michael Neuvirth. Strong game will go unnoticed, but he played very well when the Caps needed it.
2. Alex Ovechkin. His first goal was a move only Ovi can pull off, going through three defenders.
1. John Carlson. Sure, he was on the ice for six of the first seven goals of the game. But with a goal, two assists, and dare we say, a veteran move standing up for Johansson, he takes the honors.