CHICAGO -- Joel Quenneville had a message for the Blackhawks in the hours before their 2013 Stanley Cup championship banner was raised to the United Center rafters.
"Enjoy it," Quenneville said to his players. "It will be a special moment in your life. At the same time, when that's over and they drop the puck, it's time to play for keeps."
The Hawks heeded their coach's advice and kicked off the 2013-14 season with a sharply played 6-4 victory over the Capitals on Tuesday night.
Johnny Oduya notched the game-winner in the third period, while Brandon Saad had a goal and two assists, Marian Hossa a goal and an assist and Patrick Kane, Brandon Bollig and Brent Seabrook a goal apiece. Niklas Hjalmarsson added two assists. Corey Crawford was just solid enough in net to pick up the victory.
"It's good to get the first two points out of the way," Bollig said. "Our main focus is to get off to a great start this year and put ourselves in a good situation to win the division and take it from there in the playoffs. You can't really expect to win every night, but it would be nice."
Mikhail Grabovski had three goals and an assist and Alex Ovechkin a goal and an assist for the Capitals, but it wasn't enough as Braden Holtby suffered the loss.
Holtby got a glove on Oduya's knuckling shot with 6 minutes, 7 seconds remaining, but it slid into the net as the Hawks rallied from a third-period deficit.
In the opening period, Quenneville sent out the fourth line in the waning seconds of the Hawks' first power play, and not long after the penalty expired, Bollig pounced on a loose puck near the left post and fired it past Holtby.
Bollig had a hand in the Capitals' tying goal as the forward was in the penalty box for roughing when Ovechkin took a feed from Grabovski and beat Crawford to the glove side with a quick shot from the left circle.
Kane worked some of his offensive magic later in the period to put the Hawks ahead. The winger plucked a puck out of midair, dropped it to the ice and waited patiently before picking his spot and ripping a shot over Holtby's right shoulder.
"It was a long break," winger Bryan Bickell said of playing after the ceremony. "The legs were kind of rubbery after the first couple of shifts. We had the lead going into the (second), which was huge for us."
The Capitals tied it midway through the second when Grabovski broke in two-on-one with Jason Chimera and only Duncan Keith back for the Hawks. Grabovski launched a shot under Crawford's glove for a 2-2 deadlock.
The last few days of training camp were filled with special teams work, and it paid off late in the second when the Hawks cashed in on a power play. With Orland Park native Connor Carrick off for hooking, Seabrook gave the Hawks the lead when the defenseman stepped into a one-timer off a rebound of a Hossa shot and blew it by Holtby.
The Capitals answered in the third with consecutive power-play scores. The first came when Green fired a long shot that eluded Crawford, and the go-ahead score came when Grabovski redirected a Green shot into the net.
Saad and Michal Handzus worked a terrific give-and-go that resulted in a 4-4 tie midway through the third. Saad fed Handzus, who sent a pretty pass to a charging Saad in the slot, and the winger chipped it past Holtby.
Oduya's winner wasn't a thing of beauty, but it was pretty enough to give the Hawks the win after they killed off a Capitals five-on-three advantage for 1:26 in the final three minutes.
Hossa capped the scoring when he was credited with a goal after being dragged down on a breakaway with the Washington net empty.
(c)2013 Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services