NOTES FROM AN EXCITING OPENING WEEK OF THE NHL SEASON
NEW YORK (October 8, 2009) — Notes from the high-powered, high-scoring opening week of the National Hockey League’s 2009-10 regular season:
* Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin scored five goals and four assists and became the third player in NHL history to tally at least three points in each of his first three games of a season, joining Guy Lafleur with Montreal in 1975-76 and Peter Stastny with Quebec in 1982-83.
* Ovechkin’s 5-4–9 powered an opening week that saw Capitals players grab the top four spots on the scoring chart. Nicklas Backstrom (0-8–8), Brooks Laich (3-3–6) and Alexander Semin (2-3–5) were right behind Ovechkin.
* The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the Capitals 6-5 Tuesday in a see-saw game that featured a hat trick by Flyers captain Mike Richards, a record-tying four assists in one period by Flyers defenseman Matt Carle and the overtime winner by Flyers forward Daniel Briere on his 32nd birthday.
* Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby scored a goal in each of the Penguins’ two victories, including the shootout winner against the New York Islanders Saturday.
* The Phoenix Coyotes posted a pair of road victories to open the season, including a 3-0 shutout of the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins Wednesday. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov made 24 saves in the Coyotes’ first shutout win at Pittsburgh since Jan. 28, 1992, when the then-Winnipeg Jets won 4-0.
* Colorado Avalanche center Wojtek Wolski tallied four points (three goals, one assist) in his club’s two victories. He notched a pair of goals Oct. 1 against San Jose, marking the fourth consecutive year he has scored a goal on opening night. Wolski added a goal and an assist Oct. 3 vs. Vancouver.
* 24 players made their NHL debut, including center John Tavares of the New York Islanders. The first overall pick in the 2009 Draft scored a goal and had an assist in his NHL debut Saturday. The same night, Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (No. 2) notched his first career point with an assist. Matt Duchene, the No. 3 pick by Colorado, recorded an assist in his debuts and Atlanta’s Evander Kane (No. 4) recorded an assist in his debut against Tampa Bay.
* The New York Rangers received big goals from rookie defensemen Michael Del Zotto and Matt Gilroy in posting a pair of victories. Del Zotto, 19, scored in his home debut against Ottawa Saturday at Madison Square Garden and again Tuesday at New Jersey. Gilroy’s first career NHL goal late in the second period at New Jersey was the game-winner.
* 18-year veteran Keith Tkachuk opened the season by notching four points (two goals, two assists) in the St. Louis Blues’ two-game sweep over the Detroit Red Wings in the Compuware NHL Premiere Stockholm 2009 series. After tallying one assist in a 4-3 victory Oct. 2, Tkachuk notched three points (two goals, one assist) and earned First Star honors in a 5-3 win Oct. 3. The Melrose, Mass. native increased his career goals total to 527, second all-time among U.S.-born players and 31st all-time.
* Florida Panthers defenseman and Oulu, Finland native Ville Koistinen scored a goal and added the shootout winner in a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Friday in the opening game of the Compuware NHL Premiere Helsinki 2009 series — the first NHL regular-season game ever played in Finland.
* Making his fourth career NHL appearance just 15 miles from his hometown of Vantaa, Finnish goaltender Antti Niemi stopped all 23 shots in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 shutout victory over Florida Saturday in the clubs’ second game in Helsinki.
* The Minnesota Wild overcame a 3-0 deficit to post a 4-3 overtime victory over the Anaheim Ducks in their home opener Tuesday. Their big free agent signing in the off-season, right wing Martin Havlat, keyed the rally with three third-period assists. The game also featured both by each of the Koivu brothers – Mikko for Minnesota and Saku for Anaheim, who tallied his first goal with the Ducks.
* Among the keys to the Calgary Flames’ 3-0 start were forwards Eric Nystrom and Adam Pardy, who posted a +5 rating and share the club lead in points (Nystrom 2-1–3, Pardy 1-2–3).
* Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson scored on Toronto Maple Leafs rookie and fellow Swede Jonas Gustavsson, making his first NHL start, in the first penalty shot attempt of the season Tuesday. The goal was the game-winner in Ottawa’s 2-1 victory, sealed by Senators netminder Pascal Leclaire’s four saves in the game’s final seven seconds.
* Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason, the 2008-09 Calder Trophy winner as the League’s top rookie, has picked up where he left off last season. Mason has won both of his starts, posting a 2.00 goals-against average and .947 save percentage.
* Edmonton Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin became the 24th goaltender in NHL history to reach the 300-victory milestone with a 5-4 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars Tuesday. Khabibulin made 30 saves and stopped all three shootout attempts.
* Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price opened the season with a pair of overtime victories on the road against intra-divisional opponents. He made 43 saves in a 4-3 victory at Toronto Oct. 1 and stopped 34 shots in a 2-1 win at Buffalo Oct. 3.
* Colorado goaltender Craig Anderson, who signed with the Avalanche as a free agent July 1, stopped 73 of 75 shots in posting a 2-0-0 record with a 1.00 goals-against average, .973 save percentage and one shutout as the Avalanche opened the season with a pair of home victories.
* Flyers goaltender Ray Emery made a successful return to the NHL by posting a 28-save shutout in a 2-0 win at Carolina Oct. 2. Emery, who played last season in Russia, has won each of his first three starts.
* Nashville’s Dan Ellis made an impressive season debut and underlined the Predators’ goaltending depth by stopping 38 shots and four of five shootout attempts in a 3-2 win at Dallas Saturday. Ellis had ceded the starting job late in the 2008-09 season to rookie Pekka Rinne, who went 29-15-4 with seven shutouts last season.