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Capitals @ Sabres Recap: A V and a V Make a W

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Vitek Vanecek brings home a win in his NHL debut.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Buffalo Sabres Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

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Twenty-fours hours after notching the first win of the Zdeno Chara Justin Schultz Connor Sheary Peter Laviolette era, the Caps laced back up to try to double down in Buffalo. The odds were in their favor, with the good guys coming into the night 6-1-1 in their last eight tilts with the Sabres and 12-3-1 in their last sixteen. Sure enough, they pulled through again with a 2-1 victory to open the season 2-0-0.

Here’s Friday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Vitek Vanecek looked great in his first taste of NHL action, and you’ve got to think the organization will be eager for a follow-up sooner than later.

Minus: For the second night in a row, the Caps relinquished a goal in a close game in the first minute of the third period. Gotta get that buttoned up.

And now, please enjoy this...

Ten more notes on the game:

1. About six minutes into the game Brendan Dillon refamiliarized himself with his old haunt, the penalty box, to give the Sabres the first big opportunity of the game, but Vitek Vanecek and the Caps’ penalty killing unit were up to the task. A few minutes after the kill, Connor Sheary took another one, and the unit stood strong once again. And then, before the period was over, Evgeny Kuznetsov decided he wanted a visit as well. Again, the PK held firm. Didn’t anyone tell these guys they’re supposed to be more disciplined this year?

2. Speaking of Vitek Vanecek, the Caps 2014 2nd round pick looked awfully sharp in his NHL debut, and it was a good thing because by the time two periods had finished up the shot counter was tilted 26-13 in the Sabres favor. Vanecek was a big reason the good guys took home the win in this one, and it’s never too early for a goalie controversy!

3. It was last night’s hero, Jakub Vrana, who opened the game’s scoring, taking a great feed after Tom Wilson took the body along the boards to win a puck battle and sniping Linus Ullmark on a semi-breakaway. Great start to the season for V.

4. Alright, when the penalty killers knock down five penalties in a row, they get their own bullet to commend their efforts. Scott Arniel’s PK unit was 6th in the NHL last year in effectiveness, and they’re off to another admirable start in 2021. This tilt could have been disadvantaged on the scoreboard from the get go, and then a one-goal lead could have been relinquished late in the game. Instead, it wasn’t.

5. It’s way too early to start getting worked up about advanced stats in small sample sizes, but the Caps expected goal numbers are pretty underwhelming, especially considering both their games have come against what we could probably charitably label low-end competition. Keep an eye on it, will you?

6. For the second time in as many nights, the Caps gave up a goal in the first minute of the third period, as a long-distance Rasmus Ristolainen wrist shot deflected off Tom Wilson and past Vanecek to tie the game at one.

7. Check out this snipe by Tom Wilson, which broke the tie and gave the Caps a 2-1 lead. That’s some sweet stuff from Game-Winning Willy, who had a great game.

8. Everybody put your hands together to the Buffalo Sabres, who played an immaculately clean game, and whose zero penalties taken had nothing to do with the referees arbitrary interpretation on legality based on gameplay and competitiveness!

9. Two games, no Ovi goals. We know you’re starving and so are we. This is an empathy bullet.

10. 2-0-0. Can’t turn your nose up at that.

Next up, the Caps head to Pittsburgh for a Sunday matinee. Meet you back here for that one.