WASHINGTON -- Nicklas Backstrom scored two goals, and the Washington Capitals began their bid to repeat as Stanley Cup champions with a 4-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Capital One Arena on Thursday.
Alex Ovechkin and Lars Eller scored, and John Carlson tied an NHL playoff record for most assists in a period with three for Washington. Braden Holtby made 27 saves.
"We got some energy off our [three] goals in the first, but overall I think we got fortunate a little bit," Backstrom said. "They're a good team. They're aggressive all over the ice and didn't give us a lot of time out there, but I think as a team we can play a little bit better. We got lucky there."
[WATCH: Hurricanes vs. Capitals Game 1 highlights | Complete series coverage]
Andrei Svechnikov scored two goals for Carolina, which was playing its first playoff game since May 26, 2009. Petr Mrazek made 14 saves.
Washington was 2-for-4 on the power play, Carolina was 0-for-3.
"It's a tough game. We did a lot of good things," Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "Obviously special teams got us, and that's pretty much the whole story in that game."
Video: CAR@WSH, Gm1: Holtby turns away shot from Aho
Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is at Washington on Saturday.
The Capitals got their first shot on goal at 9:33 of the first period and took a 1-0 lead on Backstrom's goal at 9:58. He carried the puck into the zone and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot.
Backstrom made it 2-0 on the power play at 13:10 when, all alone at the left edge of the crease, he tipped in a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov.
"Tremendous game from Nick," Capitals coach Todd Reirden said. "His consistency is off the charts in terms of the game that he brings night after night. And then when it comes time to elevate your game, he's right there."
Video: CAR@WSH, Gm1: Ovechkin slides home loose puck for PPG
Ovechkin increased the lead to 3-0 when he knocked in a loose puck on a power play at 18:05.
Svechnikov pulled Carolina within 3-1 at 5:07 of the third when he skated around Carlson and scored from the bottom of the right circle.
"It means a lot for me," Svechnikov said of his goals, "but we lost the game."
Svechnikov made it 3-2 when he scored on a one-timer from the right circle off a cross-ice pass from Lucas Wallmark at 7:26.
"We've been playing with each other a lot this season," said Wallmark, who had two assists. "We know each other out there and we like to play with each other. He's a great player."
Video: CAR@WSH, Gm1: Svechnikov rips home one-timer
Washington killed a hooking penalty on Jakub Vrana at 11:14 and a high-sticking penalty on T.J. Oshie at 16:29 before Eller scored into an empty net with 37 seconds left for the 4-2 final.
"Yeah, at the end, that was big, a lot of big-time blocks, big-time clears and guys paying the price, and that's what we're going to need," Carlson said. "No team is going to just roll over no matter what the score in the playoffs, and I think we did a good job taking care of business there."
They said it
"We know we can't get frustrated against that team. They play a tight defensive game and they don't give you much. I thought we were still generating a lot and doing the things we do in that second and third period especially. I think we can build on that and find a way to steal one in this building." -- Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal
"You leave from a game like this, you're happy with a win. But we can play better than that, especially 5-on-5. There's an area that we've got to do some work on and there's room for improvement in that spot, for sure." -- Capitals coach Todd Reirden
Video: Clutch Performance: Svechnikov, Mangiapane shine
Need to know
It was the first playoff game between the teams. … Svechnikov, 19, became the fourth player in Hurricanes/Hartford Whalers history to play in the postseason before his 20th birthday, joining Dana Murzyn (1985-86), Geoff Sanderson (1990-91) and Patrick Poulin (1991-92). … Ovechkin scored his 62nd playoff goal to move into a tie with Bobby Hull for 27th on the NHL's all-time list. … Backstrom has 100 NHL playoff points (33 goals, 67 assists) in 117 games. ... An NHL team that wins Game 1 at home has a best-of-7 series record of 327-106 (75.5 percent).
Game 2 of Eastern Conference First Round at Capital One Arena on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS)
Video: Backstrom, Carlson lead Capitals to Game 1 win