WASHINGTON (AP) — While the fisticuffs never materialized, the Washington Capitals made a season-opening 5-1 victory against the division-rival New York Rangers memorable Wednesday night for Alex Ovechkin’s 731st and 732nd goals and Hendrix Lapierre’s first.
Ovechkin scored twice to pass Marcel Dionne for sole possession of fifth place on the NHL goals list, putting him a couple of steps closer to Wayne Gretzky’s record that had long seemed unbreakable. And Gretzky was even part of Lapierre’s goal, talking about his relationship with Ovechkin on national television while the 19-year-old put the puck into the net and went sliding into the boards.
Lapierre was all smiles after his parents, grandparents, brother, sister and girlfriend witnessed his NHL debut as part of a sellout crowd and will always have the “Great One” on the highlight reel of his first goal. Ovechkin, one game into a new five-year contract to chase the mark, needs 163 goals to pass Gretzky.
The hype going in was more about the aftermath of incidents between these teams last season and the changes the Rangers made over the summer to get bigger and tougher. They debuted a new-look lineup featuring gritty forwards Barclay Goodrow and Sammy Blais, enforcer Ryan Reaves and big defensemen Patrik Nemeth and Jarred Tinordi, but the closest thing to a fight was a pair of roughing penalties in the first period.
Washington goals filled the void. After T.J. Oshie opened the scoring on the power play in the first, Justin Schultz added a power-play goal in the second and Lapierre scored 24 seconds later on a two-on-one rush.
Ovechkin added another on the power play from his trademark spot in the faceoff circle to make it 4-0. Chris Kreider scored on the power play for New York midway through the third period, but that was the only goal Vitek Vanecek gave up on 24 shots against.
Ovechkin scored a short-handed goal to cap the scoring.
MAPLE LEAFS 2, CANADIENS 1
TORONTO (AP) — William Nylander broke a tie at 1:06 of the third period and Toronto beat Montreal in the opener for both teams.
Nylander took a pass from Morgan Rielly off the rush before faking a slap shot and high to goalie Jake Allen’s short side.
In a rematch of Montreal’s seven-game victory in the first round of the playoffs last season, Toronto won in front of 18,493 masked and fully vaccinated fans in Scotiabank Arena’s first regular-season crowd since March 10, 2020.
Jack Campbell made 31 saves for Toronto, allowing only Jonathan Drouin’s first-period goal. Pierre Engvall tied it on a power play midway through the second.
Toronto star Auston Matthews, the NHL leader with 41 goals in 52 games last season, sat out because of a wrist injury that hasn’t fully healed from surgery.
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