In October of 2005, the NHL was struggling to regain the fans it lost during the 2004-05 lockout. The Capitals were one of the weakest teams in the league after jettisoning talent in order to win the first overall pick in the 2004 lottery. Rookie Alex Ovechkin had just turned twenty and the future of the franchise largely rested on his shoulders.
Tarik El-Bashir, then writing for the Washington Post, called Ovechkin “the cornerstone of the franchise’s rebuilding hopes.”
Ovechkin began that game the way he would continue throughout his career in Washington, DC: he laid big hits, scored big goals, and had a little fun.
He started off strong in front of the DC crowd, with a literal bang: breaking the plexiglass during his very first shift on the ice.
“His opening-shift smash came about 20 seconds into the game and sent Blue Jackets defenseman Radoslav Suchy hurtling into the boards behind the Columbus goal,” El-Bashir wrote. “The metal divider went tumbling.”