Blackhawks' offense clicks in opening win

Jerry Bonkowski, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks shook off the offseason rust and successfully began defense of their Stanley Cup championship Tuesday 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, leading the Blackhawks to a 6-4 win over the Washington Capitals in the season opener for both teams.
Marian Hossa was credited with an empty-net goal with 38 seconds left to ice the win for Chicago.
Washington's Mikhail Grabovski recorded a hat trick.
Chicago suffered a big scare 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.
However, the Hawks' defense, led by goalie Corey Crawford, successfully killed both penalties.
Crawford stopped 28 of 32 shots, while Caps goalie Braden Holtby stopped 29 of 34 shots.
"That was a tough team to start off against," Crawford said. "It was a fast-paced game, and they're pretty good at capitalizing when they get chances."
Added defenseman Brent Seabrook, who scored Chicago's third goal of the game, "There's some highlight saves in the first game of the year already. (Crawford) played great, we had a great power play, and on the 5-on-3, we did whatever it took to keep the puck out of the net."
The game was a see-saw affair from the opening faceoff. Chicago would take a lead, and Washington would come back to tie. The Capitals finally took their first and only lead of the game, 4-3, early in the third period on Grabovski's third goal of the night, his second power play tally to go along with an earlier even-strength score.
"If anything, our turnovers gave them momentum, gave them life, and they're a really good hockey team," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "It's hard to play that way. You don't want to trade chances, trade opportunities with them. That's more their style, not ours. We're more about territory."
Three of Washington's four goals came on the power play, something that did not surprise Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.
"(Washington) had the best power play in the league last year," Quenneville said. "It could have been a disaster, but Corey made some great stops."
After Grabovski put the Capitals ahead, Chicago came back less than three minutes later when Brandon Saad scored to tie the game at 4, paving the way for Oduya's game-winning heroics.
"We were trying to make too many cute plays," Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. "You watch (Chicago) play, and that's kind of how they play, but they seemed to execute a lot more than we did tonight."
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 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 Crawford's stick and into the net.
It marked the ninth straight season opener in which Ovechkin scored a point (five goals, four assists).
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.
Chicago regained the lead for the third time in the game on Seabrook's power-play goal just over four minutes later.
Washington again took advantage of the power play to tie the game at 3 just 59 seconds into the third on a power-play goal by Grabovski.
NOTES: The Blackhawks raised their 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 -- Fs Jimmy Hayes and Joakim Nordstrom, D Mike Kostka and G 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 time the Capitals faced the Blackhawks since March 18, 2012. ... The Capitals' roster features two 19-year-olds, D Connor Carrick, a native of Orland Park, Ill., a Chicago suburb, and F Tom Wilson.

What to Read Next