Mikhail Grabovski recorded a hat trick and four points in his debut, but an inability to protect the lead and a failed five-on-three late in the third period negated those efforts. Washington fell, 6-4, to the Blackhawks in its season opener Tuesday night after succumbing to the style of game its opponent thrives on.
“We blew a lead. We fought so hard to get the lead, and then we let it get away, but they’re the champs for a reason,” Coach Adam Oates said. “They’re a really good hockey team, and it’s hard to play that way. You don’t want to trade chances. You don’t want to trade opportunities with them. That’s more their style and not ours.”
The teams alternated goals — Brandon Bollig and Patrick Kane for the Blackhawks and Grabovski and Alex Ovechkin for Washington — until the third period, which Chicago entered with a 3-2 lead and seemingly strong control of the game after taking advantage of numerous Capitals turnovers at even strength.
A pair of power plays in the first five minutes were just what Washington needed to find its way back into the game, though. The Capitals’ three core players teamed up for a setup when Nicklas Backstrom won a faceoff back to Ovechkin, who faked a shot before passing over to Mike Green. The defenseman slid over from where he received the puck just enough to alter his angle and fired a wrister that Grabovski tipped at the top of the crease to beat Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.
Grabovski’s third goal of the night came on a redirect as well. He deflected another of Green’s shots in front to give the Capitals their first lead of the game at 4-3 with only 5 minutes 16 seconds gone in the third. But the Blackhawks aren’t a team that backs down from a battle of offensive firepower.
“I was just a little bit kind of lucky,” Grabovski said. “Just right spot where I’m supposed to be and great shot for Green.”
Less than three minutes after Washington captured the lead, Connor Carrick gave the puck away as he entered the offensive zone and sent Brandon Saad racing in the opposite direction. A give-and-go with Michal Handzus allowed Saad to race toward the crease, beating both John Erskine and Carrick to the net for a backhander that erased the Capitals’ progress to make it 4-4.
Chicago’s decisive goal didn’t come on an especially pretty play or the result of a power play but rather was a fluky shot by defenseman Johnny Oduya that squeaked past the glove of netminder Braden Holtby as it made its way low across the ice.