Oct. 5 vs. Carolina Hurricanes at Capital One Arena
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Capitals Radio 24/7, 106.7 The Fan
Washington Capitals 2-0-0
Carolina Hurricanes 1-0-0
After a triumphant season-opening two-game road trip, the Capitals return home to host the Carolina Hurricanes in their home opener for the 2019-20 season. The game also finishes off the Caps' first set of back-to-back games this season; they trimmed the Islanders in New York by a 2-1 count on Friday night.
Video: Oshie, Samsonov lift Capitals to 2-1 victory
Making his NHL debut, 22-year-old netminder Ilya Samsonov stopped 25 of 26 shots he faced to earn his first victory in the league in Friday's game against the Isles. The only "shot" to beat Samsonov was a centering feed that caromed off three different players' skates and narrowly squeezed past his outstretched pad.
In coming home with four points from their first two road games, the Caps have won their first two road contests for the first time since 2015-16 when they won their first four road games. It's the first time in Washington's franchise history that the team has opened a season with two road games and won them both.
"It's definitely not an easy start to the season when you're opening against the defending champs in their building," said Caps coach Todd Reirden after Friday's win, "and then coming in against a rival that just finished a point behind us in the Metro and that had one of the best records in the league here, especially in [NYCB Live, formerly known as Nassau Coliseum]. So I'm proud of our guys. I thought we were composed, I thought we played with energy, passion, and our bench was outstanding.
"I just love the culture that is already starting in our room, from the contributions we got from a guy like [Martin] Fehervary last game playing his first NHL game, and then tonight you got Samsonov with his first NHL start and a win. Those are things that can really allow your group to grow a special bond, and our guys really embrace that. I'm really proud of our older guys for making it easy on them, taking them in, and helping them get adjusted to NHL life."
Video: Todd Reirden Postgame | October 4
Washington won both games by the margin of a single goal, and just two of its five goals have come at five-on-five. Lars Eller and John Carlson have each had a hand in three of the Caps' five goals to date on the young season, and Eller has supplied the primary helper on both of the team's five-on-five tallies. His line with Jakub Vrana and T.J. Oshie has been stellar through the first two games.
After supplying the game-winner in overtime on Wednesday in St. Louis, Vrana scored the game's first goal in Friday's win over the Islanders, taking an Eller feed, blazing into New York ice and beating Isles goalie Semyon Varlamov.
"Like I said the other day," says Vrana, "I've been playing with those two guys the last couple of years and we have a chemistry together. We find each other there, and it's important. It opens a little bit of space, gives us a chance to shoot the puck, gives us a chance to be offensive. We've been doing a great job so far, and we're just going to stick with it."
The last time the Capitals played meaningful hockey here on F St., Carolina ousted Washington from the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 4-3 victory in double overtime of the first-round playoff series between the two teams on April 24.
Video: Caps Postgame Locker Room | October 4
It was the first ever playoff series between the Caps and Canes, and the rancor rose quickly and carried into the preseason. In the preseason finale for both teams last Sunday in Raleigh, Reirden had some strong words for his Carolina counterpart Rod Brind'Amour, who crossed a line by barking at Caps winger Tom Wilson late in the second period. Wilson became instantly incensed, drawing a 10-minute misconduct in the process.
The Hurricanes won their season opener on home ice on Thursday, prevailing 4-3 in a shootout over the Montreal Canadiens. After taking a 2-0 lead early in the second period, the Canes squandered that advantage in yielding three goals to the Habs in the middle frame. But offseason acquisition Erik Haula scored for Carolina in the third, tying the game and forcing an extra session. Canes goalie Petr Mrazek was perfect in the shootout, and Carolina claimed the two points.
While the Caps are finishing off a set of back-to-back games and playing three games in four nights to start the season, Carolina is starting a set of back-to-backs with its Saturday night visit to the District. The Canes return home on Sunday to host Tampa Bay. Carolina has three sets of back-to-backs in the first two weeks of the season.