Calgary, which has missed the playoffs the past four seasons, has lost four straight season openers.
"Very happy with the effort, obviously disappointed with the result," Flames coach Bob Hartley said. "I told the boys, `It's one thing to play in the NHL, and there a different way to win in the NHL.'
"We're not going to start tonight on Game 1 saying, `Oh, we're young' and this. There's absolutely no excuse."
The Capitals fought back in the second period, scoring three goals -- the second two by Ovechkin and first by Carrick, who got behind the Flames' defense and had a clear path to the net.
David Jones, acquired in an offseason trade with the Colorado Avalanche, gave Calgary a 1-0 lead at 5:18 of the first period.
About three minutes later, Lance Bouma's check left Washington defenseman Jack Hillen injured on the ice while Tom Wilson had a fight with Bouma.
Wilson and Bouma both connected punches before Wilson flipped Bouma to the ice. Both received five-minute majors.
Hillen, who suffered a lower-body injury and did not return, was helped up and off the ice by teammates. Ovechkin escorted Hillen, who leaned on a trainer, across the ice to the bench.
Oates said Hillen was at the hospital "is going to be out for a bit."
Stempniak made it 2-0 with the teams playing 4-on-4 midway through the period.
Hudler added a power-play goal with a slap shot at 16:22 of the first.
Oates said he believed his team was still reeling from its loss Tuesday, when Chicago earned a 6-4 win.
"I think we were really flat coming out. I really do," Oates said. "I didn't expect it, but I really thought we were. And you know what? It was their first night. They were flying."
Oates said Holtby would start when the Capitals play the Stars on Saturday. "Everybody has hiccups," Oates said. "Everybody." . The Capitals claimed defenseman Alexander Urbom off waivers from the New Jersey Devils and assigned center Michael Latta to the Hershey Bears of the American Hockey League. Urbom, a native of Sweden, has two goals and nine penalty minutes in 14 career NHL games. He had 64 penalty minutes in 68 games with the AHL's Albany Devils last season. Latta made his NHL debut against the Blackhawks on Tuesday. ... The Olympic torch and outfit worn by Ovechkin during his portion of the torch relay in advance of the Sochi 2014 Olympics was schedule to be displayed on the concourse during the game. ... Three first responders from the Metropolitan Police First District, the area that includes the Capitol, received a rousing ovation when introduced before the national anthem. Earlier in the day, a Capitol Police officer was injured during a car chase from the White House past the Capitol.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 03: Fans arrive for the Washington Capitals home opener against the Calgary Flames at...