NHL

Caps look to open 2-0 on road

The Washington Capitals were familiar with all the hoopla associated with opening the season as defending Stanley Cup champions, having been through that a year earlier.

And after the St. Louis Blues raised their championship banner Wednesday night, the hosts took a two-goal lead in the opening eight minutes against the visiting Capitals.

But, relying on its experience, Washington settled down, tied the score in the second period and won 3-2 when Jakub Vrana scored 2:51 into overtime.

"It's a tough game to come into to start the season: on the road, all the emotion," Capitals defenseman John Carlson told reporters. "This wasn't a regular regular-season game for this building, and rightfully so, against a really good team. They won last year and they're just as good this year. So not a layup to start by any means, and I like how we did."

The Capitals will look to continue that momentum Friday night, when they travel to Long Island to face the New York Islanders.

"We knew coming into it -- having been on the other end of it last year -- that there was going to be a lot of emotion and energy in the building," Capitals coach Todd Reirden said of opening in St. Louis. "We had to try to withstand their push, because we expected them to come out flying. Just with the extra delay for our team -- sitting around waiting -- we didn't get off to the best start.

"But we stuck with it. We really managed the puck a lot better as the game went on, and gave ourselves a chance to forecheck, and play in the offensive zone, and eventually grind them down, get it to 3-on-3 hockey (in overtime), and then get the extra point."

The Islanders will be playing their season opener. They surprisingly reached the second round of the playoffs last season under Barry Trotz, who won the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year in his first season in New York.

Trotz guided the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup championship in 2017-18 before a contract dispute led him to move north.

"Obviously, a lot more comfortable, a lot more relaxed," Trotz told NHL.com of his second season on Long Island. "Last year was a whirlwind, winning the Cup (with the Capitals) and then all the things that go with that, and then making the change.

"My family stayed back in D.C. until I think the third week of November. I was in an empty house with a bed and a TV. No furniture."

The Islanders, who went 48-27-7 last season to finish second in the Metropolitan Division, made relatively few offseason changes.

The most impactful change likely will be goaltender Robin Lehner, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last season, who left for Chicago after failing to come to terms with the Islanders.

Thomas Greiss, who paired with Lehner to claim the William Jennings Trophy for allowing the fewest goals in the league, will partner with Semyon Varlamov.

Capitals rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov is expected to make his first NHL start, with Washington playing the first of back-to-back games. The Caps will play host to Carolina on Saturday.

--Field Level Media

Updated October 3, 2019