Tom Wilson missed Washington's first 16 games due to a suspension for an illegal check. In the five games since his return, Wilson has shown just how valuable he is to the Capitals.
Wilson scored 54 seconds into the contest to set the pace and Washington defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 Wednesday night for its first three-game winning streak of the season.
Andre Burakovsky, Michal Kempny and Devante Smith-Pelly added goals for the defending Stanley Cup champions.
This win was easier for the Capitals, whose previous two victories came in overtime. Braden Holtby stopped 37 shots for Washington.
Wilson was originally suspended for 20 games for an illegal check to the head of St. Louis forward Oskar Sundqvist in the teams' preseason finale. That suspension was reduced to 14 games by a neutral arbitrator, but by the time the decision was rendered, Wilson had already missed 16 games.
Had the 20-game suspension stood, this would have been Wilson's first game. Instead, it was his first home game, and he got a loud reception.
Wilson, who scored in his first game, upended Chicago goalie Corey Crawford on the way to the goal. Crawford stopped 23 shots. In his previous three games, he'd allowed just two goals.
"Sometimes when you have to watch some games for a while, you pick up some different things you can add," Capitals coach Todd Reirden said.
"He's played great since he's been back, and we're fortunate to get him back earlier than expected."
Washington has had an uneven start in its defense of the Cup. With Wilson's suspension and injuries to key players, they're hoping to get on a roll now.
"We're demanding of each other to get back there," Wilson said of the team's quest for back-to-back Stanley Cups.
"There was adversity at the beginning of last year," he said. "That's how you build a team."
Burakovsky knows how difficult the Capitals' task is.
"Obviously, it was a shorter summer for us and a shorter time to prepare ourselves for the season," Burakovsky said. "So, just to get back after a year that we had, I think it's tough to get in and get going right away. So, we're building our game slowly and tonight I think we did exactly what we wanted."
Brandon Saad and Erik Gustafsson scored for Chicago, which began a streak of seven road games in its next nine contests.
Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton replaced longtime coach Joel Queeneville on Nov. 6, and the team is 2-3-2 since. Chicago has lost eight straight games in Washington.
"I thought the effort was there and we looked like we were going to climb back into it multiple times during the game," Colliton said. "Some self-inflicted wounds there that made it difficult on the road against a cup winner. That's kind of the story today."
Kempny whose goal midway through the second period gave Washington a 3-0 lead, was happy his first goal of the season came against his former team.
"It feels really nice," Kempny said. I have to say, it wasn't an easy game for me to play. I know a lot of guys from Chicago. I was there almost two seasons. . It feels a little bit weird. The first period I was really excited from the game. After the first I was trying a little bit to settle down and keep playing my game and help my team to win."