All the passion and effort that was missing from Friday's performance was present tonight, and not surprisingly, the result reflected it. The Caps chased Martin Brodeur from the net and crushed the Devils in a penalty-filled, 7-2 victory on opening night on F Street.
*The big story tonight was the way the game ended. From my gamer:
With Brian Rolston and Anton Volchenkov in the dressing room with injuries, the rough stuff began with stars Mike Green and Ilya Kovalchuk squaring off at center ice. Two fights later, Devils enforcer Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond chased down center Marcus Johansson, looking to lure the rookie into a fight. Leblond earned penalties for instigating, slashing, fighting and a game misconduct. Because the infractions occurred in the final five minutes of the game, Coach John MacLean earns a $10,000 fine and Leblond is subject to an automatic one game suspension.
"He asked me at the faceoff if I wanted to go, and I said, 'No,'" Johansson said of Leblond. "I'm happy the guys stood up for me."
Asked what he was yelling at MacLean between the benches, Boudreau said: "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 [enforcer] D.J. King in the lineup. We accepted the challenges because we're a group that accepts challenges."
*If Brian Roslton (lower body), Anton Volchenkov (broken nose) and Leblond are all out on Monday vs. Pittsburgh, the Devils could be trouble. They brought only 20 players to Washington because of salary cap issues.
*In case you're wondering, the teams meet again on Nov. 22 in Newark. (Here's my bet: there will be a lot of hype leading up to the game, then nothing will happen.)
*After a relatively quiet night Friday, the real Alex Ovechkin showed up tonight. Two goals and an assist in 19 minutes 17 seconds of ice time. His penalty-shot goal was his second in seven opportunities (Mike Gartner and Peter Bondra are tied for second with three career attempts each.)
"I didn't know what he was doing," Coach Bruce Boudreau said when asked about Ovechkin going way wide at the start of the penalty shot. "He surprises me. I'm glad it went in because 5-2 going into the third is a whole lot nicer than 4-2."
*From the Caps: The seven goals matched the most scored at any home opener. The other time was an 8-7 loss to the Islanders in 1983.
*Tomas Fleischmann had a goal and an assist. But he won only 45 percent of his draws (nine of 20).
*Marcus Johansson had a brutal giveaway in the first period that led directly to the Devils' first goal. But the rookie rebounded nicely, generated a few scoring chances and won 7 of his 11 draws -- a huge improvement over Friday. I'll have more on him in Monday's paper.
*The Caps are off tomorrow.