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Capitals vs Sabres Recap: Caps Best Sabres 3-1

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Backstrom and the Caps’ third line power Washington past Buffalo for third victory in a row.

Buffalo Sabres v Washington Capitals Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images

The Capitals and Sabres were supposed to face off last week, but the games got postponed due to a COVID-related shutdown for Buffalo. Therefore, the fifth meeting between the two teams had to wait until tonight. This was a rematch between Linus Ullmark and Vitek Vanecek, who faced off the last time the two teams played on January 24. Which goalie would reign supreme? Let’s find out.

Here’s Thursday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: The Capitals’ third line was, once again, all systems go tonight. They generated some excellent chances, drew a penalty that led to a PPG, and scored a beauty of a goal in the third period.

Minus: After surpassing 30 shots on goal in their last four games, the Caps fell off a bit in that regard and only recorded 21 shots on goal tonight. Certainly less than ideal, especially since Coach Laviolette made it clear that generating shots is a big part of his plan in Washington.

And now, this delightful pre-game moment:

Eight more notes on the game:

1. The Capitals got their first great look of the night on a shot from Conor Sheary, but the Sabres got an even better save from Linus Ullmark. It looked like Sheary had a goal for sure, but Ullmark slid over and knocked the puck out of the way with the paddle of his stick. Absolutely unreal.

2. With 3:41 left in the first, the Caps got the first power play opportunity of the game when William Borgen took a trip to the box for hooking on Sheary. Just some more third line heroics from the Caps, no big deal. The Capitals’ PP got off to a slow start, even icing the puck less than 30 seconds in, but then Nicklas Backstrom called goal. He got the play started with a pretty slick twisting pass to Alex Ovechkin, and then was there to clean up the rebound behind Ullmark. That’s Backstrom’s eighth goal on the season, and he now has points in 13 of the Caps’ 15 games this season.

3. T.J. Oshie was called for hi-sticking on Curtis Lazar 5:46 into the second, but it was Tom Wilson who scored a goal 52 seconds later. That’s right, folks, Wilson scored Washington’s first shortie of the season - and boy was it a pretty one. He stripped the puck from Reinhart just below the Washington blueline and then scored on the breakaway. Nic Dowd was also part of the rush, but he slowed up in the slot and that appeared to confuse Ullmark. This was Wilson’s sixth goal of the season, second on the team behind NB19. Also, the Caps’ PK held the Sabres to zero shots on their power play.

4. Despite being tied for shots on goal with 17, the Caps held the Sabres scoreless through the first two periods. This brings Buffalo’s goalless streak to over six periods, 138:20 to be precise. This is also the second straight game in which the Capitals have held an opponent scoreless through the first two periods — an encouraging trend.

5. Early in the third period, Evgeny Kuznetsov took a Taylor Hall pass off his ankle. He immediately skated to the bench and appeared to be in a lot of discomfort. However, he shook it off and was out on the ice for his next shift.

6. Conor Sheary scored against his former team in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, and he decided to keep the trend going and score against another former team tonight. Ullmark denied him earlier, but he did not waste his next opportunity. Justin Schultz drove the puck through the neutral zone with the Caps’ third line and made a great drop pass to Lars Eller. Eller fired the puck on net, the rebound got away from Ullmark, and Sheary was there to send the puck to the back of the wide open net. Sheary now has ten points (6G, 4A) against his former team. Eller also had the primary assist on the tally, his 300th career point. Congrats, El Tigre!

7. With just over ten minutes to go, Dmitry Orlov was called for tripping Tobias Reider and the Sabres power play got to work for the second time tonight. With nine seconds left on the Buffalo man advantage, Tom Wilson fumbled a clearing attempt just below the blue line and Victor Olofsson made him pay for his mistake with a rocket of a shot to break Vitek Vanecek’s shutout bid. Wilson tried to get too fancy with the play, and he will certainly be kicking himself for that.

8. Linus Ullmark left the Sabres net with just over two minutes to go for the extra attacker, and the Capitals managed to hold off their final push to solidify their 3-1 win. The Caps are now riding a three-game winning streak.

The Capitals will not see the Sabres again until mid-March. Up next for the guys in red: a 12:30 matinee matchup against the New York Rangers on Saturday.