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With a new player in the lineup, a goalie looking to set a franchise milestone, and 69 points through 43 games there was reason to be confident heading into Buffalo to face the Sabres. However, despite their recent home ice struggles, Buffalo bested the NHL leading Capitals behind a stellar 33 save performance by Chad Johnson.
First up, here's Saturday night's Plus/Minus:
- Plus: Tonight was Braden Holtby's first regulation loss after logging a point in 22 previous contests. The Capitals suffered only their eighth regulation loss of the year. We will be OK.
- Minus: Washington did not have their A game tonight and the Sabres exploited it. By the time Tim Schaller tallied a shorthanded goal late in the first period the Capitals were out of it.
Ten more notes on the game.
- The Sabres entered tonight's game having lost six straight on home ice. Tonight, however, they jumped on loose pucks and created turnovers to get on the scoreboard early and ride the lead to their 18th win of the season.
- Phil Varone opened the scoring ten and half minutes into the game by burying a Rasmus Ristolainen rebound around Braden Holtby 's right leg. Despite defensive stick pressure Varone was able to get a shot away that
- On Washington's second fruitless first period power play Schaller picked up a Dmitry Orlov blue line bobble and buried a shorthanded breakaway for a two goal lead that proved to be all Buffalo needed.
- Evander Kane tallied next early in the second period and prompted Barry Trotz to pull Holtby in exchange for Philipp Grubauer. Kane's opportunity was birthed from a Marcus Johansson turnover at the red line and the resulting play ended Holtby's night at 27 minutes.
- Trotz's change didn't have much effect on the team, however, as Cody Franson tallied his first power play goal of the year against Grubauer less than ten minutes after the swap. The big defenseman took a carom off the corner boards and wired a shot past Grubauer's left ear.
- Johansson was the first Washington player to put the puck past Johnson early in the third period. The Swede spun and fired a hard one touched shot, coming from a nice Jason Chimera backhand, from the slot past Johnson's blocker hand.
- Mike Richards made his Washington debut, skating 12 minutes between Zach Sill and Michael Latta, in his first NHL game since April 9th of last year with the Los Angeles Kings.
- Brooks Laich was a healthy scratch, for only the third time in his career, to make room for Richards. While tonight's result was not pretty I think the new veteran should be given another game or two to acclimate himself before giving the nod to Laich again.
- Holtby fell just short of tying Jose Theodore's franchise best 20-0-3 23 game point streak. Tonight's loss was the first tarnish on his own immediate 23 game record, now in the books at 20-1-2.
- Ten years ago this afternoon I was in my parent's suburban Maryland basement watching Ovechkin vault himself, from his backside, into the conversation for greatest goal of all time. Seriously, Youtube "the goal". I watched, Ivan Majesky watched, and Wayne Gretzky watched. Where were you watching?
The Capitals will travel home to Washington tonight and ready themselves for the New York Rangers, fresh off of a Saturday shootout win over the Philadelphia Flyers. Grubauer was expected to get the start but don't be surprised to see Holtby in the paint at Verizon Center at five o'clock.