Wearing their red uniforms in Buffalo, the Caps were good in the first, great in the second, and in the third ... did what’s more-or-less expected of them at this point, letting it get close but ultimately getting the win.
Here’s Monday evening’s Plus/Minus:
- Plus: Philipp Grubauer. He carried a shutout for more than 50 minutes and made some nice saves (especially in the third), picking up the win.
- Minus: Defending a lead. The Caps sat back too much (again) with a 2-0 lead in the third. Buffalo carried the play almost the entire 20 minutes, outshooting Washington 17-6, seven minutes of which were within a goal. (Evgeny Kuznetsov got a gift of an empty-netter to make it 3-1 in the final minute; Evander Kane scored with three seconds left to make it 3-2.)
And now, this...
Ovechkin with a fantastic tip from a Djoos shot. Caps up 1-0! pic.twitter.com/UT2TdOeoM3— cara (@carabahniuk) February 19, 2018
Ten more notes on the game:
- The Caps played a good first 40. There was a clear skill difference between the teams, and the Caps showed it up and down the lineup.
- Alex Ovechkin followed his attempt-less performance in Chicago by getting a shot (blocked) on his first shift in this game. Ovechkin only had three shots on goal, but one of them went in (a deflection off a Christian Djoos shot early in the 2nd that was reviewed for a high stick).
- The Caps’ speedy scoring wingers didn’t make a big impact on the scoresheet, but were noticeable. Andre Burakovsky was involved in several quality chances. In the first, he put a 1-on-3 shot from the slot off the outside of the goal, then immediately set up Lars Eller for a similar chance, which was stopped. In the second, he found Madison Bowey on the rush, but Bowey was stopped by Chad Johnson.
- Jakub Vrana, meanwhile, was noticeable for speeding up and down the ice. He hit the crossbar in the second period and also picked up an assist on John Carlson’s goal.
- Carlson scored on a rebound off the end boards. The Caps began weaving in the offensive zone. Kuznetsov got the puck near center-point and shot, missing the net. Carlson, checked to the ice, swatted at the puck, which went off the goalie and across the line. Kyle Okposo kicked the puck out and play continued, but after review, the referees called it a goal.
- Okposo got one back for Buffalo with about seven minutes to go. Evan Rodrigues attacked down the left wing with speed and passed to Scott Wilson trailing the play. Wilson’s shot from the slot deflected in off Okposo.
- While the Caps were good defending their lead in the 2nd, they spent much of the third in their own end. They were out-attempted 31-12 and out-chanced 18-4 according to Natural Stat Trick. (Contrast this with the first two period: the Caps out-attempted the Sabres 43-25 and outchanced them 22-12.) But Philipp Grubauer was good in net and kept the Caps in front.
- Part of that may have been related to the back-to-back situation—the Caps play again tomorrow night and were rolling lines and pairs. (Bowey, Djoos, and Brooks Orpik each played about 15:30 at 5-on-5; Matt Niskanen and Carlson were around 17:40, and Dmitry Orlov around 20 minutes. So, Orlov aside, the ice time distribution was fairly even.)
- Kuznetsov got an empty-net goal after Rasmus Ristolainen (who had played 2:32 of the previous 3:01) gave him a drop pass at his own blueline. (Ristolainen was targeting Evan Rodrigues.)
- Evander Kane scored with three seconds left, open on the weak side with an open net.
With the win, the Caps move ahead of Pittsburgh for first in the division again (and with two games in hand). They return home for a game tomorrow against Tampa Bay.