The Buffalo Sabres suffered a tough 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals in an early afternoon matinee today, as they looked to snatch two points and get closer to a playoff spot. As part of NBC’s “Hockey Day In America”, this was the third meeting between the clubs, with the Capitals being victorious in two and the Sabres in one.
Jason Pominville scored the lone goal for the Sabres in the second stanza, with help from Thomas Vanek and Tim Connolly.
Both teams were unable to capitalize on their chances in the opening frame; however, that doesn’t mean the opportunities weren’t there. Buffalo closed the period with half of the 16 shots Washington ended with. Four Sabres players were penalized with infractions in the first, giving the Capitals four power plays. Two of the penalties overlapped, bringing about a 5-on-3 play for a short amount of time, which forced Buffalo to rock the penalty kill-and they did, thanks to their star netminder Ryan Miller.
Miller was spectacular throughout the first 20 minutes of play, especially when he put a stop to Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom’s pair of power-play shots. First, Miller grabbed the puck in a glove save, then went forth to reach his left pad out just in time to stop another blast from the Washington sniper.
The Capitals snatched the scoreboard advantage 6:09 into the second period with Mathieu Perreault’s seventh tally of the season. The goal was the result of a crazy bounce after the puck was dumped into the Buffalo zone by Matt Hendricks and ended up right in front of Miller. In perfect timing, Perreault was there to give the Caps an early 1-0 lead. But their lead didn’t last long.
Nearly four minutes later, Pominville evened the score at one on the Sabres’ first power-play of the game. With Brooks Laich in the box for goaltender interference, the Sabres took advantage of their man advantage. Pominville wristed a screenshot from just inside the Washington blueline that caught Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov with his hands in the air. The puck went in top shelf, giving Pominville his 14th of the year and his fifth on the power-play. Vanek and Connolly assisted-nice to see Connolly contributing lately.
Buffalo continued to trail Washington in shots following the 40-minute mark, being outshot 18-10 in the period and 34-18 through two.
Marcus Johansson gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead on the power-play just past the midway point of the final period, thanks to brilliant plays by Perreault and Alex Ovechkin. Ovechkin gained puck possession in the Washington zone, then turned around and came full speed ahead up the ice. Miller blocked Ovechkin’s initial shot, and then wasn’t quick enough to block Johansson’s tip-in that came off Perreault’s attempt.
With Miller pulled late in the third, Nathan Gerbe had the best chance to tie things up, the Sabres were unable to force the overtime.
With the loss, the Sabres continue to remain shy of the eighth place slot in the Eastern Conference with 60 points, just four behind the Carolina Hurricanes. They’ll have a chance to bounce back Wednesday night when the Atlanta Thrashers visit the HSBC Arena for a 7 p.m. faceoff.