On Oct. 5, 1976, the Capitals opened the third season of their NHL existence with a road game in Atlanta against the Flames. Washington scored twice in each period to skate off with its first-ever season-opening triumph, a 6-5 victory over its hosts.
Coming into the contest, the Caps had a lifetime 0-7-1 mark against the Flames, and they’d been outscored by a combined 32-9 in those eight games. These struggles came against an Atlanta team that was also a recent NHL expansion club, having come into the league just two years ahead of the Capitals.
With help from Yvon Labre and Ron Lalonde, Washington’s Hartland Monahan scored the game’s first goal at 1:26 of the first period. Atlanta’s Hilliard Graves drew his team even seven and a half minutes later, but Guy Charron’s first goal as a Capital came with help from Monahan late it in the first, and it gave the Caps a 2-1 lead after the first 20 minutes of play.
Bill Clement – briefly the Caps’ captain the previous season – knotted the game for the Flames with a shorthanded goal at 8:49 of the second. Just over five minutes later, Graves’ second goal of the game gave Atlanta its first lead of the night at 3-2.
Caps defenseman Jack Lynch tied it at 3-3 with just 1:42 remaining in the second, Harvey Bennett and Labre assisting. Ex-Flame Gerry Meehan sent the Caps to the locker room with the lead when he scored at 19:36 of the middle period with help from Blair Stewart and Mike Lampman.
Bennett scored in the first minute of the third period – the Caps’ third goal in a span of just 2:34 – with an assist from Gord Lane to give Washington a two-goal lead. Atlanta tied the game at 5-5 with two goals in just 75 seconds in the middle of the third, but Washington won it with some late heroics.
Clement took a hooking call with just 2:16 left in the game, and Monahan scored his second of the night and the season on the ensuing power play. Lynch and Charron picked up the assists to make a winner out of goaltender Bernie Wolfe, who bested the Flames’ Phil Myre.
With six goals on the night, the Caps had exceeded their combined offensive output of four goals in four games against the Flames in the prior season of 1975-76.