From an spectacle standpoint, it was fizzling -- big time.
And that was fine by the Edmonton Oilers, who spent the first 40 minutes last night turning Alexander Ovechkin's long-awaited visit into a non-event.
They rendered the Russian superstar invisible, robbing Rexall Place of a chance to see someone special do something special.
But if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. And shutting out the best player in the world for three periods was a pipe dream that burst all over the Oilers in the third period when Ovechkin spearheaded a four-goal rally.
"That's one of the more disappointing ones," said defenceman Tom Gilbert, after Ovechkin's two goals and one assist gave the Capitals a 4-2 decision.
"To know that you're 20 minutes away, you almost played a great game, and then to fall apart in the third ...
"Maybe we were just trying to hold the lead instead of sticking to our game plan and applying pressure to them, getting pucks deep and trying to establish a forecheck even though we were up 2-0.
"We just collapsed into a little box and a good team like that will just eat you up."
The hype was all about Ovechkin and Semin and Backstrom and Green, but Oilers netminder Jeff Deslauriers was the biggest star of the first period, making 17 saves to keep Washington off the board.
"We didn't quit; we still played hard, but I think they played harder," said Deslauriers, who stopped 38 of 42 in the losing effort.
"They're a skilled team... that's why they're in first place. We just gave them a bit and they took it all. You can't give them anything."
Edmonton went up 2-0 in the second period on goals from Shawn Horcoff and Andrew Cogliano and seemed to have things well in hand. There was still no sign of Ovechkin.
"We played great in the first two periods, didn't give them a whole lot," said Gilbert. "We had guys back the whole time and turnovers were limited. But that's a good team, you have to play a full 60 minutes."
And Ovechkin showed them what the Or Else was, scoring 32 seconds into the third and then again at 6:37.
"That's Ovechkin," said Deslauriers. "He can play with the puck and put it where he wants. You give him a puck- size (opening) and he's going to find it."
After that, it only seemed a matter of time,
The end came after a valiant penalty kill, when Edmonton held the No.1 power play unit in the NHL to just one shot on a two-man advantage for 1:50.
That should have turned the momentum in the home team's favour, but instead, Tomas Fleischmann made it 3-2 on a one-timer at 13:23.
Backstrom, from Ovechkin at 16:19, sealed the deal.
"It's tough to swallow because we had one of the best teams in the league on their heels," said Cogliano. "All we had to do was win the third period."
The loss is Edmonton's third in a row, setting up a last-place showdown with St. Louis tomorrow night.
"It's disappointing, because we played so well for a couple of periods," said Steve Staios, who made a couple of heroic shot blocks on the five-on-three.
"Then it seemed like we lost some steam after their first goal."