finally come. Opening night of the 2023-24 NHL season is approaching, and the Penguins will visit the area on Friday to take on the Capitals.
This will be the sixth Opening Day meeting between the two teams, with three openers in Washington and two in Pittsburgh. Let’s take a look back at the opening night matchup between the fierce rivals.
October 7, 1975 – Capital Center
The Capitals faced the Penguins on opening day of their second season at Capital Center. In this game, the Penguins opened the scoring with a power play goal. The Pens scored another goal early in the second period. Fortunately, the Americans tied the game with two goals late in the second period, the first of which was scored by Greg Joly, their 1974 NHL draft pick. First round pick. Unfortunately for Team USA, Pittsburgh scored two goals, the first of which was scored by Colin Campbell, who later became the New York Rangers head coach and NHL vice president of operations. General Manager. The final score was a 2-4 defeat.
The team then went on to record 11 wins, 59 draws and 10 losses, scoring 32 points, a slight improvement from the previous year’s 8 wins, 67 losses and 5 points, which was still the worst record in NHL history.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals Score: October 7, 1975 | Hockey Reference
October 14, 1977 – Capital Center
Two years later, the Capitals and Penguins held their homecoming Opening Day at the Capital Center. This time, the results were different. Greg Malone scored late in the first period to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead. But in the second period, the Capitals scored two goals, one early in the game by Bob Sirois and one midway through the game by Guy Charron. The final score was 2-1, and the Capitals won.
The team went on to record a record of 17 wins, 49 losses, and 14 wins and 46 points.
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals Stats: October 14, 1977 | Hockey Reference
October 9, 1986 – Pittsburgh Municipal Arena
Nine years later, the Capitals and Penguins met in another Opening Day game, this time at Pittsburgh Municipal Stadium.
In this game, the Capitals scored two goals in the first quarter to lead 2-0. Dave Christian scored in the first three minutes of the second quarter to lead 3-0. But just half a minute later, the Penguins opened the scoring on a goal from Randy Cunniworth. The Penguins scored two power-play goals during this period to tie the score at 3-3. In the third quarter, Randy Cunniworth scored two more goals to complete his hat trick, and the Penguins led 5-3. Dave Christian scored his second goal of the game to cut the lead to one goal. But neither team scored again after that. The final score was 5-4, and the Penguins won.
The Caps finished with a 38-32-10 record and made the playoffs, meeting the New York Islanders in Game 7 of the Easter Epic, who eliminated them.
Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Stats: October 9, 1986 | Hockey Reference
October 7, 1988 – Capital Center
Two years later, another Capitals/Penguins Opening Day matchup. This time it was in the center of the capital. In this game, Mike Gartner opened the scoring in the first minute, giving the United States a 1-0 lead. Just over three minutes later, Pittsburgh scored on its comeback. Geoff Courtnall scored for the United States, who now lead 2-1.
Pittsburgh scored two early goals in the second period, including a power-play goal by Zarley Zalapski, to put the Penguins back in front 3-2. Mike Ridley scored with about 3 minutes left in the second quarter to tie the game at 3-3.
Dave Christian scored six minutes into the third quarter to give the United States the lead. The United States currently led 4-3, but the lead was short-lived as Randy Cunneyworth scored two goals within just over five minutes of each other. Paul Coffey hit a field goal to help the Capitals lose 6-4. This game was like their first game two years ago, with Canniworth being the offensive hero. The game was a penalty-filled game with 30 minor penalties and two misconducts, the latter resulting from a second-quarter brawl.
The team finished with a 41-29-10 record and entered the playoffs, where they lost to the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round.
Capital Open Penguins – The Washington Post
Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals Score: October 7, 1988 | Hockey Reference
October 13, 2016 – PPG Paints Arena
The Capitals and Penguins haven’t met again on Opening Day in 28 years. The game, held in Pittsburgh, was the first opening night meeting between the two teams in the Crosby/Malkin/Ovechkin era. That night, the Penguins hoisted the Stanley Cup banner and became the 2015-16 champions.
In this game, Andre Burakovsky scored nearly a minute into the first quarter to help the Capitals take a 1-0 lead. That lead lasted until nine minutes into the second quarter. Patric Hornqvist scored a power-play goal to tie the score at 1-1. Near the end of the second quarter, the Penguins scored to take a 2-1 lead. Andrei Burakovsky scored his second goal of the game a third of the way through the third period to tie the score at 2-2. The game went into overtime, but still no goals were scored. The game went to penalties, which the Penguins won. The final score was 3-2.
Photo: NHL on NBC
That season, Team USA won the Presidents Trophy for the second consecutive season with a record of 55-19-8. Their playoff run ended in a similar fashion to the year before. They advanced to the second round of the playoffs, but lost the series to Pittsburgh.
Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins Score: October 13, 2016 | Hockey Reference
All told, the Capitals have beaten Pittsburgh just once in the opener, losing three in regulation and one in a shootout, though those games were all relatively close. There is another Capitals/Penguins game on October 13th, but not on Opening Day. That was October 13, 2011.
October 13, 2011 – CONSOL Energy Center
The game was the Capitals’ third of the year, having won their first two games before arriving at CONSOL Energy Center. In this game, the Penguins’ James Neal helped the visiting team lead 1-0 about two and a half minutes into the game. McNuble scored early in the second quarter to tie the score at 1-1.
Alex Ovechkin scored his first goal of the season 40 seconds into the third period to give the Capitals a 2-1 lead. However, James Neal scored his second goal of the game on a power play at 16:15, tying the score at 2-2. The game entered overtime. Dennis Wideman scored the game-winning goal on a power play less than a minute after Jordan Staal was tripped into the penalty area. The final score was 3-2.
One negative from this game was Jay Beagle getting injured in his fight with Arun Asham. He suffered a concussion and did not return to the lineup until after Christmas.
Washington Capitals vs Pittsburgh Penguins Stats: October 13, 2011 | Hockey Reference