The previous two meetings between the Capitals and Sabres needed a shootout to decide the winner so it was a surprise to no one that tonight's copntest was deadlocked after regulation. Unlike the previous two meetings overtime would be all that was needed, Mike Green snapping home the game winner after receiving a wonderful pass from Alex Ovechkin on the left wall. Ovechkin's four point night would be overshadowed by Green's own three points, his first of two tallies marking the 100th of his NHL career.
The first high scoring affair of the season between these two clubs, Tuesday night was not one for the goaltenders. Both Jhonas Enroth and Braden Holtby finished with subpar save percentages (.857 and .852 respectively) and goals against totals that will raise each of their goals against average. Only Holtby and the Capitals would leave New York with two points tonight, Enroth and the Sabres defense unable to contain Washington's stars in the extra frame.
Eleven more notes on the game:
- Ovechkin wired a one-timed slap shot past Enroth before the game was four minutes old, good team work during the offensive zone faceoff key to the scoring chance. Troy Brouwer couldn’t win the faceoff cleanly but a smart stick from Nicklas Backstrom got the puck to Ovechkin on the left side, his shot from thirty feet through Zemgus Girgensons and past Enroth’s blocker hand.
- A fade-away snap shot from the right circle off of Green’s stick deflected in off of Ovechkin and put the Capitals up by two 67 seconds after the Russian’s first tally. A fortuitous bounce and good puck movement low in the offensive zone allowed Green to pinch and put a quick shot into traffic on top of the Sabres’ crease - a tip off the right knee scoring number 38 of Alex’s season.
- The Capitals hadn’t tallied a first period goal since they scored three in the first frame (they eventually gave those back) against the Pittsburgh Penguins six games ago. Ovechkin’s two red-lights before the game was five minutes old was a refreshing change for this Capitals team, but seeing the lead erode over the next seventeen minutes was the same old same old.
- Tough first goal against Holtby, from a late Icing waive-off at the far end of the rink all the way to John Erskine’s lackluster coverage of Matt Moulson and his 30-goal scoring (Baltimore, MD) stick in front of the crease. Holtby immediately appealed the goal to the referees but a replay showed the puck sitting unpossessed in the crease before Christian Ehrhoff came in and buried it.
- An early power play goal in the second came from Cody Hodgson courtesy of some smart passing from Moulson and Tyler Ennis, tying the game at two and pushing Washington back towards their heels after the early lead. The penalty killers were all caught staring as the Sabres wingers fed their center for his first of the game.
- A really nasty hit from Mike Weber on Marcus Johansson in the slot five minutes into the second frame - a stern left upper arm taking a bite out of Johansson’s face, the puck fifteen feet ahead of them below Enroth’s net. Can we entertain the idea of adding an additional minor penalty for such cases of Interference such as having Roughing tacked on? Weber's later forearm shiver to Backstrom's chest at the Buffalo bench could've merited either minor too.
- re: Green’s 100th career goal halfway through the game - haven’t seen something so good since this. Have to imagine that Stamkos hook helped out a bit on the wraparound's final touch.
- The Capitals again failed to keep their newly established lead (62 seconds this go around), surrendering a first career NHL goal to Philip Varone after a nice net drive from Marcus Foligno off of the wing. Not sure what both Karl Alzner and John Carlson were doing to Holtby’s left but neither Brouwer nor Brooks Laich picked up Varone in open ice behind them - tie game.
- Brouwer would redeem himself on Washington's next man advantage, a slap shot from the slot thanks to a perfect pass from Martin Erat positioned in the corner. Enroth was unable to move from left the right fast enough, the puck snapping out of the twine almost as quickly as it entered.
- Hodgson's second of the night wouldn't have materialized if Jason Chimera kept his mouthguard in place and played through until the whistle. It looked like a minor penalty was coming against Chimera for Hooking but because the winger stopped closing his gap against Hodgson the York graduate had no problem chipping home his 14th to knot the score again. The Sabres would outshoot their opponents 13 to 5 in the final frame.
- Sixty seconds into overtime it was Green benefitting from an excellent pass from Ovechkin streaking down the left wing care of an Erat drop pass. The cross-ice pass forced Green to tuck the puck behind Enroth from a tight angle, but Game Over Green came through - his 101st the game winning fifth.
It wasn't an impressive win but it will be one for the memories. Tonight's team reminded us of the Bruce Boudreau led Capitals, built to play against all by using their unstoppable offensive force. Washington turned around their dismal power play (1 for 33 entering tonight's game) with a 2 for 3 effort against Buffalo. Defensive breakdowns and questionable decision making remain, but they only made for a memorable finish to this one.
The Capitals are set to square off against the Blue Jackets on Thursday in Columbus.