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Capitals @ Sabres: Ovechkin’s 48th Sparks 3rd Period Comeback, Washington Falls In Seven-Round Shootout

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More late game-heroics weren’t enough to put the Caps on top.

Washington Capitals v Buffalo Sabres

The Capitals closed out their road trip against the Buffalo Sabres in the second of three meetings between the teams this season. After some lousy play through two periods, Washington fought back valiantly before falling in a seven-round shootout.

The good:

The Bad: Like, the first two periods and change.

And now, this…

Ten notes on the game:

1. After an evenly paced handful of opening minutes, Buffalo struck first, as Victor Olofsson, capitalized on a failed= clear by Carlson… and another missed opportunity by Carl Hagelin had a chance to move the puck out of the zone. An over-eager Lars Eller was thinking offense before his ice-mates could depart from the defensive zone, and left Holtby out to dry high glove side. Olofsson, who missed 15 games due to injury this season, has been a spark-plug for the Sabres since his return to action and is on pace to score 24 goals, which would tie Jack Eichel (2015-16) for seventh-most among all rookies in franchise history.

2. The Capitals found themselves on the man-advantage for the first time with over five minutes left to go in the first period but weren’t able to generate any pressure, and continued a one-for-fifteen skid on the PP against the league’s worst penalty-killing unit. There wasn’t much else doing either way in the duration of the first period, and though Washington out-shot Buffalo 10-9, and were outpaced at the faceoff dot 12-10.

3. Washington started the second period promptly with a Brenden Dillon penalty, a slash as he attempted to cut off the angle in front of Holtby’s crease. A one-touch pass later, Eichel netted his 36th of the year to give the Sabres a 2-0 lead. For Eichel, it was his first goal in the last 7 games but marked his 6th point in his last six games against Washington.

4. This evening’s contest marked the 10th game in a Caps sweater for Dillon, perhaps a question for the recap commenters: what grade do you give “Dilly” thus far on the Washington blue line?

5. Through two periods, the stats were even, but the shot chat told the story:

6. Alex Ovechkin cut the Buffalo lead in half, providing a sorely-needed jump to Washington’s to this point listless play. The marker was Ovechkin’s 48th of the year, tying him for the league lead, and placing him just three tallies away from passing Mike Gartner (708) for the seventh most goals in NHL history.

7. It proved to be the spark they needed, as the offense woke up and Dimitri Orlov deflected a puck off a Sabres defender and past Linus Ullmark for his fourth of the season to bring the game back to even. Ovechkin and Wilson recorded assists on the tally, which snapped a 31-game goal drought for the Russian defenseman.

8. With 2:48 left to go in the third, Brandon Montour found himself wide open in the slot and deposited it in the back of the net — but the tally was quickly waived off courtesy of goaltender interference by Jeff Skinner, who has struggled mightily in Buffalo after several strong years in Carolina. Momentum shifted mightly in Washington’s direction and after a furious rally in the offensive zone, the buzzer sounded for overtime.

9. Orly giveth, and Orly taketh away — an offensive zone tripping penalty with 2:50 remaining in the extra stanza put Washington on the 4-on-3 penalty kill, but aggressive speed by Nick Jensen and a gutsy block by Jonas Siegenthaller allowed the killers to do their job and force the shootout.

10. The Sabres elected to shoot first in the skills competition:

  • ❌Holtby said no to Eichel on a five-hole attempt.
  • T.J. Oshie’s five-hole bid failed just the same.
  • Sam Reinhart was denied on a backhand.
  • Ilya Kovalchuk also couldn’t slip the puck past Ullmark
  • ❌Oloson’s first career shootout attempt was stonewalled by Holtby
  • Nicklas Backstrom’s wrister was stopped by the glove
  • Rasmus Dahlin’s stutter-step slapper beat Holtby below the pads
  • Evgeny Kuznetsov kept it alive on a blocker-side, cross-body wrist shot
  • Jimmy Vesey’s changeup was poked away by Holtby
  • ❌Ovechkin’s head fake didn’t fool Ullmark
  • Marcus Johansson ripped it wide past Holtby’s stick
  • Jakub Vrana was stuffed on a forehand-to-backhand attempt
  • Dominik Kahun’s backhand slipped past Holtby’s glove
  • Richard Panik was denied by Ullmark’s pad

The Capitals were trapped in a trap game. For the fan’s sake, they turned a snooze-fest through 40 minutes into a seven-round shootout, but there is certainly no moral victory tonight in western New York. For the Capitals to continue to stave off the hard-charging Flyers, it’s undeniable that they’ll need to be better against the teams that they’re supposed to beat. They’ll have another chance to get back off the schnide against a team that is arguably the NHL’s worst in the 21st century as the Red Wings come to town on Thursday.