Caps Rebound, Beat the Sabres, 5-3 by Usvaldo de Leon
Bad turnovers; Questionable penalties; lost faceoffs and weak defensive play hanging the goalie out to dry: Overall, it was a typical Washington Capitals game. However, for once that described the visiting Buffalo Sabres as opposed to the Caps.
The Caps took advantage of getting to play a weak team for once and cashed in handily. The scoring began immediately, with Nicklas Backstrom winning the seconds faceoff to Alex Ovechkin who drilled it five hole before Sabres goalie Ryan Miller had a chance; 19 seconds, 1-0 Caps. Miller would not allow anything else through in the period.
The second saw the Sabres challenge Holtby with 17 shots, seven more than the Capitals, and two got in. The Sabres returned the favor in the second, with Cody Hodgson firing a wrist shot five hole on Braden Holtby 12 seconds into the period to tie the game. The Sabres second goal was a wrist shot from Brian Flynn. Unfortunately, though the Sabres led in shots, the Caps led in scoring chances, getting three goals. Troy Brouwer scored on the power play, flicking in a shot after getting stoned on beautiful chance moments earlier. Jason Chimera (yes, Mr. Chimmer), camped in front of the crease, collected a sweet pass from Brouwer and lifted a shot past Miller for his first goal of the year. The Caps continued to work, and 43 seconds later, Marcus Johannsson scored exactly as Chimera had; Miller did not get any support from his defense, which is the sad story of the Sabres’ season.
In the third, up 4-2, the Caps began to lose focus. The Sabres began to play rough, much as the Bruins had the previous day. It seemed to help: Steve Ott tried to start a fight with Nicky Gnome of all people, and got mugged by Ovi for his trouble. The ploy worked, though: Five minutes in, Buffalo cashed in on a power play goal by Hodgson to make it 4-3. Ott continued his adventures in thuggery, suckering Steve Oleksy into punching him. After a tense ten minutes, Mathieu Perreault extracted some karma. He stole the puck from Kevin Porter in the defensive zone, played the give and go with Joel Ward in the neutral zone, then waited till Chimera screened Miller to fire in the clincher. In the closing moments, none other than Steve Ott himself undid the last chance of the Sabres, by picking up an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
Many Capitals had good games, but especially the first and fourth lines. Ward had two assists, setting up scores by Chimera and Perreault. On the top line, Ovi had a goal, Backstrom had two assists and Mike Ribeiro.
In the playoff hunt, Ottawa blew out Winnipeg, leaving the Caps six points out of 8th and seven out of 3rd. At the current pace, the Caps need to post a 15-4-1 record to claim the division and a 14-5-1 record to take 8th.