The Caps opened up the 1999-00 season – and the Ted Leonsis era of majority ownership – on Oct. 2, 1999 against the Florida Panthers in South Florida. It’s the only game Washington has ever played on Oct. 2, and the Caps lost by a 4-3 count.
Pavel Bure staked the Panthers to a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 3:28 of the first period. The Caps evened the score on a Jan Bulis goal at 5:52 of the first, with Steve Konowalchuk and Joe Reekie collecting the assists. A Ray Whitney goal with 1:39 left in the first enabled the Cats to take a 2-1 lead to the first intermission.
Whitney scored again at 2:59 of the second period to extend the Florida lead to 3-1. Four minutes later, a Yogi Svejkovsky power play goal drew the Caps within a goal at 3-2. Calle Johansson and Andrei Nikolishin picked up the assists on the second Washington goal of the night.
Whitney set up Viktor Kozlov at 15:22 of the second to give Florida a 4-2 lead, a cushion it would take into the final frame. Konowalchuk supplied the sole assist on Bulis’ second goal of the game and the season at 16:59 of the third to close out the scoring on the night.
Starting out what would prove to be a Vezina Trophy-winning season, Caps goaltender Olaf Kolzig made 19 saves on 23 shots in losing to Panthers goalie Sean Burke (31 saves on 34 shots).
Making his NHL debut for his hometown team, Caps center Jeff Halpern skated 9:44 and won eight of 10 face-offs. Washington defenseman Sergei Gonchar led all skaters on both sides with 28:28 in ice time for the night.