The Washington Capitals looked to build on their momentum Tuesday night as they took on the Buffalo Sabres for the last meeting of the season between the two teams. Washington just ended their longest losing streak of the season at seven in the previous game with a 5-0 win against the Montreal Canadians and earned another two points after prevailing in overtime.
“It was a big win for us. We fought until the end. It was obviously good that we could pull off the win,” Washington forward Nicklas Backstrom said after the game.
Alex Ovechkin earned three points with two goals and an assist on the game winner in the extra frame. Mike Green had an equally impressive night, scoring in overtime while adding another goal and an assist in regulation.
Braden Holtby got the nod from Coach Adam Oates after his shutout against Montreal in the previous outing.
Washington jumped out to an early lead, scoring two goals from Ovechkin. The first was a powerful slap shot right off the draw. During their first power play of the game, Troy Brouwer won the faceoff back for power forward to put in the back of the net.
Ovechkin’s second goal was a deflection on a Green shot from the point through traffic that ricocheted off Ovechkin’s pants to go top shelf on Buffalo goalie, Jhonas Enroth.
“I feel sorry for Greenie,” Ovechkin commented after the game on his leg deflection getting credit for Green’s offensive effort.
Unfortunately, Buffalo would answer with two of their own. Before the periods’ end, Christian Ehrhoff put a wrist shot behind Holtby on a third rebound with bad defensive coverage from the Caps in the offensive zone. Less than two minutes into the second, Washington saw their lead evaporate when Cody Hodgson put a power play goal bar down on Holtby.
Mike Weber was called for interference against Marcus Johansson when the Washington forward was on the receiving end of a nasty elbow to the face. The Caps failed to convert on the man-advantage but scored less than five minutes later when Green showed off his offensive patience on a terrific solo effort. He faked a shot to freeze Enroth then took advantage by wrapping the puck around to put the Caps back in the lead.
The lead would hold for almost a minute, when Philip Varone scored the first NHL goal of his career to knot the game at three a piece. The Buffalo offensive has had no trouble producing goals, scoring three or more in their last seven of eight outings.
Buffalo gave up a power play to Washington as a result of Henrik Tallinder’s hook on Brouwer, who scored on the ensuing opportunity on a three way passing play with Ovechkin and Martin Erat.
Hodgson would tie the game up again for the Sabres in the only goal of the third period on an unassisted backhander past Holtby.
The third period momentum did not carry over for the home team, who eventually fell one minute into overtime when Ovechkin drew the attention of the defensive and fed the puck to an open Green, who put a wrist shot in the back of the net to get the Caps their first set of consecutive wins since early January.
Backstrom stressed the importance of two more points in his postgame interview.
“I think it is real important for us to put ourselves in a good position before [the] Olympic break. As you said, it is tight in our division…Every point is so important right now, so you’ve got to take advantage of every one,” he said. The win means more than just two more points in the tight Metropolitan. It also means that the momentum and perseverance that it took to end their seven game skid would not be in vain, as the Caps capitalized on their blow out against Montreal to turn out another win.
While they gave up a lead three times, they ultimately held on for the win and stole two points from the worst team in the NHL.
“It is kind of frustrating when you get a lead and then you relax and they get one goal and tie the game,” Ovechkin said postgame.
Coach Adam Oates would not let his team off the hook completely despite the victorious outcome.
“The good news is we won the game. We did a lot of good things, obviously a couple mistakes, a couple breakdowns…I thought we did a lot of good things in the game,” he said, giving his team credit where credit was due.