Marcus Johansson tipped in a rebound shot from Mathieu Perreault 10 minutes and 20 seconds into the third period to score a power play goal and give the Washington Capitals a critical 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres in Buffalo on Sunday. Perreault grabbed a long rebound surrendered by Ryan Miller on an Alex Ovechkin shot and fired it towards the net. Johansson snuck in front and got a stick on the puck to direct it past Miller for the score.
The goal was Johansson's ninth on the season, and it came in the way the Capitals have been preaching all year. He crashed the net, and good things happened.
The Sabres had several chances in the closing seconds, but the last serious one was cleared away when Brooks Laich blocked a shot attempt from the point. The Sabres had three face-offs in the Capitals' zone with under a minute remaining, but the Capitals cleared every one.
The Capitals took a 1-0 lead when Perreault scored 6:09 into the second period, but the Sabres answered on the power play under three minutes later when Jason Pominville scored his 14th goal of the season.
The Capitals had 39 shots on goal compared to just 29 for the Sabres. Semyon Varlamov made 28 saves to get the win, while Miller took the loss with 37 saves. The Capitals now have 72 points on the season, three ahead of sixth-place Montreal, while Buffalo remains tied for ninth with 60 points.
The Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres go into the second intermission tied at one goal a piece. Although the period started well for Washington, it was Buffalo who quickly seized back momentum to tie it up.
After a disappointing first period that saw the Captials miss a big 5 on 3 advantage, they were able to come back in the second and scored on a relatively favorable bounce. Center Mathieu Parreault scored on a wrist shot thanks to a lucky bounce off the boards, giving the Caps an 1-0 advantage early in the second period.
And while the Caps power play continued to struggle, it was the Sabres who scored just 30 seconds into their first man advantage. After Brooks Laich was called for goaltender interference, Jason Pominville scored on a rising slap shot that snuck by Caps netminder Semyon Varlamov , tying the contest up 1-1.
The Caps are outshooting the Sabres 34-18 through two periods, and have taken more shots in this game so far than they have in each of their last six games. They will need to continue to keep up that pace if they want to get another one past stud goaltender Ryan Miller.
For the past week, the Washington Capitals have had their hands full with the Pacific Division. Washington heads back East after a 1-4-0 stretch against those particular Western inhabitants, but a 1-2-0 start to a five-game road trip won't get any easier when the Caps face the desperate Buffalo Sabres Sunday afternoon.
The Caps of old returned for one night Wednesday in a wild 7-6 win over the Anaheim Ducks. Alexander Semin earned his fourth hat trick of the season after having not scored since November 28. Despite their recent struggles, the Caps have seen their top wingers returning to form lately; Semin, Alex Ovechkin and Mike Knuble have combined for seven goals in the Caps' last four games. Semin's 21 goals are second on the team behind Ovechkin's 23, but when the former scores, the Caps always seem to respond; all 21 of Semin's goal have come in wins.
Washington will need a win Sunday as it sits in a logjam within the Eastern Conference standings. The Caps are in fifth place, five behind Southeast Division leader Tampa Bay, six behind Monday's opponent, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and just six points ahead of eighth place Carolina. The Sabres are currently tied for ninth with the Atlanta Thrashers, four points behind the Hurricanes.
When the Caps left Verizon Center last Saturday after a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, the fans in attendance sent them off with a chorus of boos. That's something the Sabres are familiar with; in a 3-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues Friday at HSBC Arena, Sabres fans jeered their hometown team, whose 12 home wins are tied for third-fewest in the conference and the league. Buffalo has lost three straight at home as well. Yet, the Sabres are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games and could be nipping at the Caps' heels with a victory Sunday,