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Caps Host Canadiens in '17-18 Home Opener

Washington plays the first of 40 home games at Capital One Arena this season on Saturday night when it plays host to the Montreal Canadiens.

by Mike Vogel @VogsCaps / Monumental Sports Network

Oct. 7 vs. Montreal Canadiens at Capital One Arena 

 7:00 p.m.

TV: NBC Sports Washington 

Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7

Montreal Canadiens 1-0-0

Washington Capitals 1-0-0

Washington opens the home portion of its 2017-18 season on Saturday night when it hosts the Montreal Canadiens at Capital One Arena, the home opener for the Capitals' 43rd season of NHL hockey in the area.

Both the Caps and the Habs started the season on the road on Thursday night; the Caps in Ottawa and the Canadiens in Buffalo. Both Washington and Montreal prevailed in their respective openers, but both needed a shootout in order to seal the deal. The Caps came away with a 5-4 win over the Senators, while Montreal outlasted the Sabres 3-2.

Caps captain Alex Ovechkin supplied the fireworks in Washington's season-opening triumph. Washington entered the third period down 2-1, and it fell down 3-1 early in the final frame. But Ovechkin scored three goals in a span of just six minutes and 33 seconds of the third period. His first two goals tied the game at 3-3, and his third one evened the game at 4-4.

Ovechkin scored again in the shootout, as did Evgeny Kuznetsov, and the Caps came away with their first opening night win on the road since 2009.

"We kind of fed off the last preseason game; we were good that game," says Caps winger Brett Connolly, who supplied Washington's first goal of the game. "It's good to get on the board early and start feeling good about ourselves, and it's good to get the win. 

"I thought a lot of guys played well. I thought [goaltender Braden Holtby] after that first goal - kind of a weird goal - really stabilized back there. He made some big saves when we needed them. I thought the whole team played well." 

Now the Caps turn their attentions toward Saturday's home opener against the Canadiens. Washington returned home late from Ottawa, and Friday's practice was scotched in favor of a day off. Washington did announce that Nathan Walker, the team's third-round choice (89th overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft, would make his NHL debut on Saturday against the Habs. 

Press releases don't normally accompany the debuts of young prospects, but Walker is different. When he steps on the ice on Saturday night, he'll become the first Australian-national to skate in a National Hockey League game. The 23-year-old from Sydney made Washington's opening night roster this season, but was a healthy scratch on Thursday in Ottawa.

Walker is beginning his fifth season as a pro in North America. As a teenager, Walker moved to the Czech Republic to play junior hockey against stronger competition. After playing for the AHL Hershey Bears in 2013-14, the Caps drafted Walker in 2014. In four seasons with Hershey, he totaled 34 goals and 79 points in 202 games. 

Walker scored Washington's first preseason goal this fall, a shorthanded marker in the first period of a Sept. 18 game against the New Jersey Devils in Newark.

Like the Capitals did in Ottawa in their opener, Montreal rallied from a 2-1 deficit heading into the third period of its Thursday night game against the Sabres in Buffalo. Also like the Caps, the Habs never led in that contest, but still claimed the two points.

Montreal netminder Carey Price faced 45 shots in Thursday's game, and Montreal managed 40 shots of its own in the contest. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Price has allowed no more than three goals in 34 of his 35 career starts against the Sabres, including each of the last 27 consecutively. 

Phillip Danault scored a shorthanded goal midway through the third period to tie the game at 2-2, with ex-Caps defenseman Karl Alzner earning his first point with Montreal in the process. Thursday's game marked Alzner's debut with the Canadiens; he played the first 591 games of his career with the Capitals. 

Alzner is one of a few key offseason additions for the Habs. The most noteworthy new member of the Canadiens is forward Jonathan Drouin, who came in a June trade from Tampa Bay, a rare big swap made between NHL division rivals. The trade cost the Canadiens the services of highly heralded teenaged defenseman Mikhail Sergachev.

In addition to Alzner, the Canadiens also added a few other blueliners over the summer. Joe Morrow, David Schlemko and Mark Streit all signed with Montreal, which is carrying eight defensemen to start the 2017-18. Only one of the eight - Victor Mete - is a home grown Canadiens draft choice; each of the other seven was imported from another NHL organization. Mete is a 19-year-old who was Montreal's fourth-round choice (100th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft.

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