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 company 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 Grabovski and the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night.
“We wanted a good start. I think we got that,” Oduya said.
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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 five-on-three 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 another opening surge is a priority.
“The guys have always been in a good place since Day One of the season,” Quenneville said. “You’ve got to commend them on how they prepared themselves.”
Ex-Toronto Maple Leaf Grabovski had three goals and an assist in his first game since he signed with Washington in August. Alex Ovechkin added a goal and an assist.
“They got a little bit lucky today,” Grabovski said of the Blackhawks.
Grabovski had consecutive power-play goals in the third, lifting Washington to a 3-2 lead with 14:44 left. But Saad finished a give-and-go with Michal Handzus, and Oduya converted a slap shot at 13:53 to put the Blackhawks ahead to stay.
Oduya’s fluttering shot went in off the glove of goaltender Braden Holtby.
“It just completely fooled me,” Holtby said. “I had a clean look at the shot; it was just one of those sinkers.”
• Tyler Bozak scored a short-handed goal and ex-Vancouver Canuck Mason Raymond netted the winner in his first game with the Maple Leafs as Toronto won 4-3 at Montreal.
James van Riemsdyk and Dion Phaneuf also scored in a fight-filled game in which Montreal’s new enforcer, George Parros, was carried off on a stretcher after a bout. Toronto’s Colton Orr pulled Parros down during the fight, and the Montreal forward’s face struck the ice.
Parros was bleeding and looked woozy. The Canadiens said he suffered a concussion, but was alert and conscious and undergoing tests at a hospital.
“You never want to see a guy get hurt like that,” Orr said. “It was a scary situation. I just hope he’s all right.”
• Before the game, the Maple Leafs announced they have agreed to a $64 million, eight-year contract extension with forward Phil Kessel, 26.
• Michael Frolik scored a pair of goals, and Winnipeg rallied to spoil Edmonton’s home opener with a 5-4 victory.
With 5:02 left, Eric Tangradi sent a beautiful backhand pass in front to Frolik, who snapped a 4-4 tie by directing his second goal of the night into the net before goalie Devan Dubnyk could get back across the crease.