A strong start. That was the first item on the to-do list of every Washington Capital as they prepared for the beginning of the new season. After last year’s dreadful start they learned the importance of not falling behind of setting a positive tone.

As the Calgary Flames a team expected to reside near the bottom of the NHL standings threatened to hand them a second loss to start the campaign Thursday night that first objective appeared in jeopardy.

But after spotting Calgary three goals the Capitals gradually worked their way back into the contest. Rookie defenseman Connor Carrick kicked off the comeback with his first NHL goal Alex Ovechkin scored twice and Nicklas Backstrom tied the score late in the third period to force overtime. Then center Mikhail Grabovski recorded a backhand game-winner in the shootout for a 5-4 Capitals victory in the home opener at Verizon Center.

“We were a little sloppy in the beginning there” Backstrom said. “We weren’t sharp on passes positioning stuff like that. It’s always good to have a comeback like this. The points are so important you’ve got to take advantage of it.”

The Flames were physical from the start finishing solid checks and taking the opportunity for an extra shove or whack after the whistle. Barely five minutes in David Jones beat Braden Holtby near side with a shot to the upper-right corner. Calgary had a 1-0 lead and the goal let the air out of what had been an exuberant crowd.

A little less than three minutes later the Capitals lost Jack Hillen for the rest of the game after he suffered a leg injury when Flames forward Lance Bouma crunched him along the boards with 8 minutes 10 seconds gone.

Hillen went to play the puck along the boards in the Washington zone when Bouma delivered a clean hit that caught the blue-liner mid-stride. The defenseman’s right leg and knee absorbed the brunt of the impact and Hillen needed to be helped off the ice. He was taken to a local hospital after the injury and is “going to be out for a bit” Coach Adam Oates said.

Soon after that Lee Stempniak outmaneuvered both Mike Green and Karl Alzner in front of the net settled a bouncing puck and capitalized on the chance to make it 2-0.

Washington looked disorganized in its own zone and a step slow throughout the first period. When Alzner went to the box for interference Jiri Hudler made it 3-0 with a shot to the upper left corner sending Holtby who allowed three goals on 11 shots to the bench. In two starts the netminder has allowed eight goals on 45 shots. Oates made the switch in part to wake up the rest of the team after its sluggish start.

“I would say we really got outworked in the first period” Oates said. “I think we were really flat coming out I really do. Didn’t expect it but I really thought we were.”