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Caps vs. Sabres Recap: Gruby Gruby Gruby! Washington Wins 3-1

The Capitals handled the first game of their back-to-back, downing the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 at home on Friday night.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Capitals gave backup goalie Philipp Grubauer the best 25th birthday present he could ask for, recording a decisive 3-1 victory on Friday night.

Here's Friday night's Plus/Minus:

Plus: How about “Damn” Daniel Winnik and Philipp Grubauer, both jotting down great games! More on each of them below.

Minus: Cranberry sauce that isn’t jellied. Get the heck out of here with that potpurri nonsense.

And now, this...

Ten more notes on the game:

  • A great low, sharp-angle shot at Anders Nilsson's leg pads by Lars Eller and a strong hustle play to create havoc by Brett Connolly put a loose puck at the feet of a drifting Daniel Winnik, who beat the goalie near-side post for the first goal early in the first period. The Caps have scored first in 17 of 20 games this season.
  • Zach Sanford hit the three-wheel motion smoother than Snoop Dogg with a spliff halfway through the first, pulling a beauty forehand-backhand toe-drag and flipping a backhand shot high. Nilsson robbed him like a gerrymandered election, and the rookie is still waiting for his first NHL goal.
  • Four minutes into the second period, Brooks Orpik asked Zemgus Girgensons if he wanted an extra helping of stuffing.
  • In a story that's becoming a bit overdone like Avengers movies (we GET it, you're handsome), Dmitry Orlov fanned on an in-zone dump-in, letting the puck trickle impotently past him, out of the zone, and immediately towards his own goal on the stick of a streaking Sabres forward.
  • Just over halfway through the second, Justin Williams led a blazing rush down the boards like a sale at a lumber yard, but fired off an ill-advised pass that was easily blocked by Buffalo's Josh Gorges, kicking it with his boot. But God smiles on fools and a trailing, oddly mako shark-like Marcus Johansson was waiting. He ripped a snapshot directly to the back of the net, do not pass Go, and the Caps were up 2-0.
  • Speaking of J-Dub, he certainly appears to be getting frustrated with his lack of production. He's forcing plays, which - for a player as freakishly skilled and aware as Williams - can actually be worse than a grinder forcing it. Williams can see a million steps ahead, and usually rightfully trusts that instinct. But when the dice just aren't falling for him, these types of players can try to play even MORE precisely, even MORE intricately, when the answer is often to shift their style of play in a simpler direction.
  • Sam Reinhart got one back for the Sabres halfway through the final period, slinging a sneaky spin-around snipe past Grubauer and ending the young netminder's shutout bid.
  • The Capitals’ penalty kill continued to be excellent against a stout Sabres power play, that more than once held a full minute-and-a-half of uninterrupted zone time and got four separate opportunities. The Caps withstood the barrage both times, largely on the excellent penalty killing of Daniel Winnik and Tom Wilson. The Capitals’ power play also pitched in, as Brett Connolly rang up the fourth chance of the night and his second of the season. That would make the score 3-1, and that would be all the proverbially vague “she” wrote.
  • Hey, congratulations, Philipp Grubauer! On Gruby’s 25th birthday, and with his parents in attendance from Germany to see their son play in the NHL for the first time, the netminder was excellent, recording over 30 saves and further boosting his trade value/George McPhee’s appetite (cough.)
  • How ‘bout them Caps! I’m thankful, are you??

The Caps will enjoy this win, pound a little sweet potato pie to refuel, and get back at it tomorrow night in Toronto to face off with the Maple Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada.

Game highlights: