The Washington Capitals have this thing about home openers -- they never seem to lose them.
The Caps won their 10th consecutive home opener when Mike Green scored a power-play goal 2:24 into overtime Saturday night to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3. Green's blast from the top of the right circle trickled between goaltender Brian Boucher's legs as the Caps won their season opener.
“I saw the guy scoot over to [Dennis Wideman],” Green said, “and I knew that I had a lot of time to shoot the puck. I just had to find a spot. It kind of went off a guy’s shin pad and snuck through, but I just had to get the shot off.”
The Caps haven't lost their first regular-season game at the Verizon Center since Oct. 6, 2000, against the Los Angeles Kings.
Not that Caps coach Bruce Boudreau wasn't a little nervous.
"It's like the first day on the job and going into the office," Boudreau said. "You're nervous, whether you're a 20-year veterans on the job or a just brand new."
Alexander Semin, Jason Chimera and Brooks Laich also scored for Washington. Eric Staal had a pair of goals for the Hurricanes, now 0-1-1, and Jussi Jokinen forced overtime by scoring with 1:19 left in regulation. But Jokinen also took the penalty that led to Green's game-winning goal.
Brian Boucher made 32 saves for the Hurricanes, who had Cam Ward in goal for Friday night's season-opening 5-1 loss to Tampa Bay.
"If we get an effort like we had tonight and in the first period last night, we'll win a lot of games," Staal said. "You have to know your game and know what makes you successful. As a whole, if we stick to this style, we're going to win a lot of games."
"We played an absolutely gritty, fantastic game," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "We played a man's game. We played a hard game. Everybody was involved. Our best players were our best players. I'm proud of the effort we got tonight."
The Capitals appeared headed for victory in regulation after Laich scored on a 5-on-3 power play with 3:45 remaining. Washington had the two-man advantage after Joni Pitkanen pushed Mike Knuble headfirst into the boards for a boarding penalty with 4:52 to play, and Brandon Sutter tripped Alex Ovechkin during the ensuing 5-on-4.
But Jokinen steadied Jeff Skinner's pass with his right skate and scored from close range with 79 seconds left to get the 'Canes a point.
Ovechkin played despite spending most of the week in Moscow following the death of an uncle, returning to Washington on Friday.
The Hurricanes opened the scoring at 12:16 of the second period thanks to some good puck movement during a power play. The sequence started and ended with Staal, who took Jokinen's cross-ice pass and found plenty of net to beat Neuvirth from the right circle.
"We started a little bit slow," Green said. "I seemed like we were a little bit nervous, maybe because we were in our own building."
The Capitals tied it 1-1 at 14:28 when John Carlson, deep in his own zone, made a stellar pass to find Semin in stride alone at center ice for a breakaway. Semin did a little hitch move and beat Boucher with a backhander.
“It was goooood,” Semin said of Carlson's pass.
Chimera then gave the Capitals the lead by taking a pass from Joel Ward, racing past 'Canes forward Tuomo Ruutu was and beating Boucher at 19:39.
Staal's second goal, 18 seconds into the third period, was nearly identical to his first -- he scored on a power-play, beating Neuvirth with a high shot from the right circle after nice tie-tac-toe passing.
"I thought our power play was fantastic tonight," Maurice said.