Blackhawks open season with win over Capitals
Chicago successfully begins defense of title
The Chicago Blackhawks successfully began defense of last year's Stanley Cup title, defeating the Washington Capitals 5-4 the season opener for both teams Tuesday night at the United Center.
Johnny Oduya celebrated his 32nd birthday by scoring at 13:53 of the third period to break a 4-4 tie and give the Hawks the win.
Chicago was dealt a major blow late in the game when Patrick Sharp (goaltender interference) and Joakim Nordstrom (delay of game) were sent to the penalty box, leaving the Capitals with a 5-on-3 advantage.
But the Hawks' defense, led by goalie Corey Crawford, held strong and killed both penalties.
Crawford stopped 28 of 32 shots, while Caps goalie Braden Holtby stopped 29 32 shots.
Washington's Mikhail Grabovski put his team ahead for the first time at 5:16 of the third period with his second goal of the game, this time on the power play, giving the Capitals a 4-3 lead.
But Chicago came back less than three minutes later when Brandon Saad scored to tie the game at four, paving the way for Oduya's game-winning heroics.
It didn't take long for Chicago to kick off its quest for a second straight Stanley Cup championship -- and third in five seasons -- as Marcus Kruger found Brandon Bollig all alone on the right side of Holtby. Bollig took Krurger's pass and quickly slipped it past Holtby for the goal and a 1-0 advantage at 4:06 of the first period.
Washington tied the game at 10:42 when Alex Ovechkin's slap shot on the power play caromed off the stick of Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford and into the net.
It marked the ninth straight season opener that Ovechkin scored a point (five goals, four assists).
But the Hawks didn't get rattled. Less than 25 seconds later, Patrick Kane scored to put Chicago back ahead 2-1.
Washington tied the game at 10:30 of the second period on Grabovski's first goal of the game.
Chicago regained the lead for the third time in the game on Brett Seabrook's power-play goal just over four minutes later.
Washington once again took advantage of the power play to tie the game at three just 59 seconds into the third on a goal by Mike Green.
NOTES: The Blackhawks raised their 2013 Stanley Cup championship banner in pregame ceremonies. A few hours earlier, the team arrived by limousine and walked a red carpet into the United Center, cheered on by close to 1,000 fans. ... Chicago's season-opening roster featured 19 returnees from last season's Cup-winning club, and four newcomers -- forwards Jimmy Hayes and Joakim Nordstrom, defenseman Mike Kostka and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, making his second career stint with the Hawks. He previously was with the team from 2006-09. ... Attendance was 22,158. ... Because of last year's lockout-shortened season, Tuesday marked the first the Capitals have faced the Blackhawks since March 18, 2012. ... The Capitals' roster features two 19-year-olds in defenseman Connor Carrick, a native of Orland Park, Ill., a Chicago suburb, and forward Tom Wilson.