CHICAGO — The Chicago Blackhawks watched as their championship banner rose to the rafters at the United Center. They took another look at the Stanley Cup, and soaked in the applause from the sellout crowd.
Then Johnny Oduya and Co. went out and reminded the rest of the NHL how they won that title.
Oduya, Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa scored in the third period, and the Blackhawks kicked off their title defense with a 6-4 victory over Mikhail Grabovsky and the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night.
“We wanted a good start. I think we got that,” Oduya said. “Maybe in the second we came down a little bit; the win is the key thing to that, and to keep building on that. There’s a lot of games this year, so we’ve got to stay strong and get better.”
Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook and Brandon Bollig also scored for Chicago, which won its first game for the second straight season. Corey Crawford made 28 saves, including a couple of huge stops when the Blackhawks killed off a late 5-on-3 power play.
Chicago ruined Los Angeles’ title celebration with a 5-2 victory in last season’s opener and then set an NHL record by recording at least one point in its first 24 games. The fast start played a key role in the Blackhawks’ run to the Stanley Cup, and coach Joel Quenneville made it clear in training camp that another opening surge is a priority.
“The guys have always been in a good place since Day 1 of the season,” Quenneville said. “You’ve got to commend them on how they prepared themselves.”
Grabovsky had three goals and an assist in his first game since he signed with Washington in August. Alex Ovechkin had a goal and an assist, but the Capitals dropped their opener for the second straight season.