LAS VEGAS – At the previous Washington Capitals meeting in the T-Mobile Arena locker room, a champagne shower and the entire team were singing along to Queen's "We Are The Champions". The Stanley Cup was there and when the players returned to this room for the first time, the happy memories came back. It was hard not to have a good mood there.
The frustrated expression when the Capitals returned to the same dressing room on Tuesday night after a 5-3 loss to Vegas Golden Knights was another reminder that this is a new season. In a bloody second leg in the Stanley Cup final defender Nate Schmidt, a former player from Washington, scored the game win game with 1
"There's obviously history over the past year and the way they play, there's a lot of energy in the building," said striker Brett Connolly. "It's a great place to play and have fun. Everyone is ready to go. Physically it was a good test for us. I thought we played well enough tonight to win, as sometimes happens.
Perhaps, as expected from teams that played against each other six months ago in the final, the game turned chippy early and stayed that way. It was 5:53 in the first season and the striker Ryan Reaves of Vegas and Tom Wilson of Washington clashed, and Reaves laughed as Wilson fell to the ground.
Another incident between the two in the second period had more serious consequences. Reaves hit Wilson for a late, blind hit, knocking off Wilson's helmet. Wilson hit his head on the ice as he fell, and he was down for a few seconds before he had to be taken to the Bank of the Capitals. Wilson still looked uncertain as he walked down the tunnel to the locker room, and he was barred with a suspected concussion for the rest of the game. Reaves received a five-minute major for interference and was ejected.
After the game, coach Todd Reirden said Wilson will continue the journey with the team, but he has no update of his condition beyond that.  Wilson has been suspended by the NHL Players' Safety Division for the first 16 games of the season to bring an illegal check to the head during the preseason, and now the same department is reviewing Reave's goal for possible extra discipline. Interference is rarely a suspending attack unless there is a head contact, and Reaves made contact primarily with Wilson's shoulder.
When he entered the game on Tuesday, Wilson had scored eight goals in his first 14 games in the first line with six assists and both special teams. His return to the line-up had boosted Capitals, who had won eight of his first ten games and returned with T.J. Oshie is still out with a concussion, a serious injury to Wilson would mean that the Capitals are without their two right wings.
Washington only had one shot at the five-minute power play for Reaves Major, and this seemed to bring new life into the Golden Knights in the third period. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Cody Eakin split within 16 seconds to tie the score and take the lead in less than three minutes. The power play of the Capitals ended with 0 to 4.
Washington recovered in the third half with 8:20 minutes behind even strength: Center Evgeny Kuznetsov fed Jakub Vrana the puck in the high slot, and Vrana defeated the goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury for his second count of the game. However, striker Nic Dowd was later classified as a double minor in high-sticking, meaning that Capitals' penalties hit the ice without two of their top penalties in Dowd and Wilson. Since the Golden Knights had lagged behind the last eleven seconds of powerplay time, Schmidt sailed a puck on Goettender Braden Holtby's glove for the winner.
"I misunderstood him for some reason," Holtby said. "I do not know why. I have to look at it again. It felt like it was somehow ankle. I dont know. I have to take a look again. "
The game was a pull for a Washington team that looked disjointed after looking forward to returning to Las Vegas. From the short walk to the ice rink to the first moment they returned to the visiting dressing room, the Capitals were flooded with good memories of the win and the first Stanley Cup in this arena. The players joked that the locker room was in better shape than they expected after drinking champagne the night they picked up the trophy.
"But that was last year," said captain Alex Ovechkin on Sunday. "This is a new year. Of course, when you come back, you will have memories, you will have a smile on your face, but once the game starts, it's another day.
Ovechkin scored his 20th goal of The Season in the second period when the Arena's live boards missed him randomly while Fleury came out of position. This meant a 2-1 lead for the Capitals, and the team hoped that the defeat on Sunday, when Washington's four-goal lead at the Anaheim Ducks at home would keep players from returning to the nostalgia of return to wrap up to T-Mobile Arena.
A brutal injury followed by a loss caused a more bitter taste for the players as they left the arena on Tuesday night.