On Oct. 1, 1997, the Capitals opened up the 1997-98 season with a 4-1 win over the Maple Leafs in Toronto. The game was also the first with the Capitals for new general manager George McPhee, head coach Ron Wilson and radio play-by-play man Steve Kolbe.
All five of the game’s goals were scored in the first period. Washington’s Yogi Svejkovsky scored the first goal of the season at 3:07 of the first period on the Caps’ first man-advantage opportunity of the campaign. Calle Johansson and Joé Juneau assisted on the goal, which came just 24 seconds after the Leafs’ Igor Korolev went off for tripping.
Svejkovsky had scored four goals in the Caps’ final regular season game of the prior (1996-97) campaign in an 8-4 win over the Sabres in Buffalo.
Just 101 seconds after Svejkovsky’s strike, Caps defenseman Joe Reekie contributed his annual goal to the cause, getting help from Steve Konowalchuk and rookie Jan Bulis. For the 19-year-old Bulis, it was his first NHL point and it came in his first NHL game.
With Washington defenseman Sylvain Cote in the box for interference, Korolev dented Caps goaltender Bill Ranford for a power-play goal at 9:16 of the first to halve the Washington lead to 2-1.
Juneau restored that two-goal cushion just over three minutes later with help from Adam Oates and Calle Johansson.
Richard Zednik closed out the scoring with a tally at 18:06 of the first, a single assist going to Steve Konowalchuk. For Zednik, it was his second opening-night goal in as many seasons. He scored his first NHL goal on opening night of the 1996-97 campaign in a 5-2 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the final opening night game ever at USAir Arena.
Ranford earned the win, but suffered a groin injury in making a save midway through the first frame. He played just the first 20 minutes and was relieved in the Caps’ net by 27-year-old Olaf Kolzig, then a journeyman NHL goalie with an unimpressive 14-36-8 record compiled over six seasons as a backup in the league.
Kolzig went on to wrest the starting goaltending duties away from Ranford while the latter recovered. Kolzig went on to play in the NHL All-Star Game that season and he finished his career with 303 victories, 301 of which came in a Caps sweater. He holds the franchise mark for goaltending victories by a wide margin.
Playing in his first ever opening night game as a Capital exactly six months to the day after being acquired from Boston in a blockbuster, six-player deal, Oates was named the game’s No. 1 star.