On Oct. 10, 1980, the Caps opened the 1980-81 campaign – their seventh season in the NHL – with a 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets at the Capital Centre in Landover.
With a crowd of just 12,984 in attendance and newly acquired netminder Mike Palmateer minding the Washington nets, the Caps came out strong and poured the pressure on the Jets, who were starting their second season in the league after the 1979-80 merger that added four former World Hockey Association clubs to the NHL.
The Caps outshot the Jets 16-3 in the first period, but were only able to dent Winnipeg goaltender Markus Mattsson once. That came on a Bengt Gustafsson power play goal at 9:49 of the first period. Dennis Ververgaert and Mike Gartner assisted.
Washington continued to carry the play in the second, outshooting the Jets 12-5. They got three pucks past Mattsson in the middle frame to take a commanding 4-0 lead into the final frame. Ryan Walter scored for Washington at 2:34 of the first period, Ververgaert and Pierre Bouchard assisting.
Dennis Maruk scored the first of his 50 goals in 1980-81 at 15:06 of the second, putting the Capitals up by a 3-0 count. Bob Kelly and Rick Green assisted on Maruk’s goal. With just 51 seconds remaining in the second period, Maruk struck again to put the game out of reach, scoring his second of the night and the season with help from linemates Jean Pronovost and Kelly.
Palmateer’s shutout bid was broken with just 1:12 remaining in the game. Winnipeg blueliner Wayne Babych scored to complete the night’s scoring. Washington outshot the Jets 34-19 on the night.
Maruk was named the game’s first star, Palmateer was No. 2 and Kelly No. 3. The win was Washington’s fourth in its last five opening night contests.