|4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET23:00 GMT7:00 4:00 PM MST6:00 PM EST3:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ETNaN:� BRT, October 4, 2018
PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Attendance: 18,627
No rest for Capitals as they head to Pittsburgh
Washington Capitals at Pittsburgh Penguins
- The Caps started the season with a bang, routing the Bruins, 7-0, for their 13th straight win against Boston. The win marked the most goals scored by the Caps in a season opener and their largest shutout win since defeating the Flyers, 7-0, on November 1, 2013.
- Pittsburgh will open at home for the third straight season, looking to bounce back from a second-round playoff exit at the hands of the Capitals. The Penguins excelled at home last season, earning 62 points in PPG Paints Arena, but only 38 points on the road -- their +24 point difference was the largest in the NHL.
- Pittsburgh and Washington have played very evenly over the last few seasons, with the Penguins holding a 17-15 edge (regular season and playoffs). The teams have met in the postseason in each of the last three seasons, with the winner of that series going on to win the Stanley Cup in each season.
- Nicklas Backstrom tallied three helpers in the win last night, his 12th game with three or more assists since the 2015-16 season, the most in the NHL. Backstrom is seeking to extend his longest-active streak of five seasons with 50+ assists, already the longest streak in Capitals history.
- Evgeni Malkin looks to build off his success last season in which he posted 98 points, his most since the 2011-12 season. Malkin had 47 multi-point games last season, fourth-most in the league; only Connor McDavid (62), Nikita Kucherov (54) and teammate Sidney Crosby (52) had more.
- Sidney Crosby looks to maintain his point-a-game pace into his 14th season; he's currently tied for the fourth-longest streak in NHL history of seasons averaging at least one point per game. In 70 career regular and postseason skates against the Caps, Crosby has 93 points (33g, 60a), the fifth most all-time.
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The Washington Capitals got the pageantry of winning the Stanley Cup -- the banner-raising, one last celebration with their fans -- out of their system Wednesday when they opened the 2018-19 season, although a 7-0 win over the visiting Boston Bruins might have seemed like another chapter to the same party.
"That's a huge day for us," Evgeny Kuznetzov, who had two goals, told NBCSN. "Our fans waited a long time to have a night like that."
Now comes perhaps a dose of reality. The Capitals play on the road on the second of back-to-back nights against a longtime rival that didn't have to play Wednesday and is champing at the bit to greet them.
"The games are already pretty tense, and this game is going to be no different. It's going to be a fun one to play in," Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin said after his team practiced Wednesday at PPG Paints Arena, site of the showdown with the Capitals Thursday night. "Even though it's just a regular-season game, I think the stakes are high."
Dumoulin seems probable to play after recovering from an upper-body injury late in the preseason.
The Penguins and Capitals have been division rivals for decades. Pittsburgh had made a habit of beating Washington in the playoffs en route to winning the Cup. Washington flipped the script in the second round last spring and ousted the two-time defending Cup champions along the way to their first title.
That left the Capitals thirsty for more.
"As soon as you win the Cup, you don't want to lose that feeling," Washington captain Alex Ovechkin told the Washington Post. "You want to win more than one. As soon as you taste it, it's kind of like a really good restaurant. You go there once, and you want to come back more than once because it's great."
The Capitals will be without winger Tom Wilson, who was issued a 20-game suspension by the NHL Wednesday for a hit he delivered in a preseason game.
Wilson was suspended three games during the playoff series with Pittsburgh last spring for delivering a hit that left Zach Aston-Reese with a broken jaw and a concussion.
Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby was critical of Wilson before the length of the latest suspension was known.
"He still chooses to make those hits," Crosby said. "I'm sure the league's well aware of that. It's not the first time we're talking about a hit that he made. ... For whatever reason, he still decides to do that.
"I just don't know how many opportunities you need, you know? So, obviously, the point hasn't been made yet."
Perhaps anticipating Wilson's absence, the Capitals Tuesday claimed winger Dmitrij Jaskin off waivers from St. Louis, and he could make his Washington debut against the Penguins. Defenseman Michal Kempny is out because of a concussion.
The Wilson suspension aside, both teams returned for the 2018-19 season largely intact, although Pittsburgh has touted the fact that its players got a longer offseason to rest and recover after two short summers following Cup wins.
"I think everyone's really, really excited," Dumoulin said of the opening of the season. "You feel the energy throughout the team. I think everyone's excited to start playing for something again and come together as a team -- especially after last year, ending it on a sour note."
While Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray will be fresh, Washington coach Todd Reirden had not decided whether to go with his No. 1 goalie, Braden Holtby, a second night in a row against the Penguins after he picked up his 33rd career shutout Wednesday.
"I definitely have spent some time on this one, probably as soon as the schedule came out," Reirden said of the decision.
Updated October 3, 2018