Tom Wilson, Capitals Open Playoffs With A Win

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The National Hockey League had two games on the docket Saturday. One was a make-up game, as the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers played earlier in the day in a regular-season contest. And the evening game saw the Stanley Cup playoffs get underway with the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals squaring off in an entertaining game in the nation's capital. Well, the nation's capital of the United States. We saw 5,333 fans at Capital One Arena in Washington D.C., too, as COVID restrictions are being eased just in time for the best time of the hockey season - the playoffs! Let's get started!

Vancouver Canucks 4, Edmonton Oilers 1

The Canucks are finishing up their regular season after a COVID outbreak. Vancouver isn't going anywhere, and they aren't qualified for the playoffs. But they're forced to finish the season to the end.

The Oilers are locked into the No. 2 seed in the North Division, and they will start Game 1 of their playoff series against the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday. But they were required by the NHL to play this game, and you can't blame them for being disinterested since there is nothing to play for.

It didn't start that way. Adam Larsson opened the scoring at 12:45 of the first period with helpers to Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. The helper to Draisaitl was his 53rd of the season, while McDavid rolled to his 72nd helper.

McDavid finished the regular season with 33 goals and 72 assists, good for a ridiculous 105 points in just 56 games. It's about as close to Gretzky-like as we're likely going to see in this day and age.

Draisaitl's amazing season ended with 31 goals and 53 assists, or 84 points in 56 games. He also ended up with 15 power-play goals and 32 points on the man advantage, and he enters the playoffs on an eight-game point streak, including seven multi-point performances. He scored seven goals with 17 points in eight games in the month of May.

As far as the Canucks are concerned, they figure if they have to play the games, they might as well play them well.

Vancouver has three meaningless games, except for stats, against the Calgary Flames remaining. Neither team is going to the postseason, so it will be interesting to see how they play out.

Bo Horvat leveled the scoring at 1:27 of the second period with a shorthanded goal to make it 1-1. That's how things stood until the third period.

Matthew Highmore scored his second goal of the season at 9:13 of the third, and it stood up as the game-winning tally, with assists to Quinn Hughes and J.T. Miller. Travis Boyd got on the board 16 seconds later to make it 3-1. Highmore liked scoring so much earlier that he posted his first two-goal game with the Canucks, making it 4-1, and that's how things wrapped up.

That was plenty of support for Thatcher Demko, who stopped 31 of 32 shots. He improved to 15-18-1 with a 2.87 GAA and .914 SV%, and he got the best of Mikko Koskinen, who allowed four goals on 41 shots.

Washington Capitals 3, Boston Bruins 2 (OT)

The Capitals and Bruins out on a show in the first game of the Stanley Cup playoffs. If all of the games in this postseason are as entertaining as this one, we're all in for a treat,

Vitek Vanecek started this game, and he was staked to a 1-0 lead courtesy of Tom Wilson. He scored at 6:22, with helpers to Daniel Sprong and T.J. Oshie.

At 13:10 of the first period, Jake DeBrusk tied to beat Vanecek, who sprawled out awkwardly on his save attempt. Vanecek didn't get the save, and he also suffered a lower-body injury to make matters worse. That forced the 39-year-old Craig Anderson into the game, as Ilya Samsonov remains in the COVID protocol.

Anderson, who used to face the Bruins on a regular basis as a member of the Ottawa Senators, did a tremendous job in a relief role. He allowed just one goal on 22 shots, and that came on a power play to Nick Ritchie late in the second period.

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Ritchie's goal tied things up after Brenden Dillon had the go-ahead goal at 8:44 of the second with helpers to Alex Ovechkin and Anthony Mantha. The latter was playing in his first-career NHL playoff game.

All was quiet in the third period, and we got an overtime game in the opening battle of the postseason. And what's better than overtime playoff hockey?

Apparently Nic Dowd had somewhere to be, as he picked up the winner at 4:41 of the extra session for his first-career NHL playoff overtime winner, and the Caps fired out to a 1-0 series lead. Oshie had a helper on Dowd's winner, and he now has 50 career points in a Washington Capitals sweater.

The teams will square off again Monday night at Capital One Arena at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.