It’s a shame that Nicklas Backstrom’s 1000th game was such a dud but, alas, the Capitals pulled the “play down to a worse opponent” card and lost. The Sabres just outworked them while the Capitals stood still, put passes off skates, and turned over the puck when they had time to make plays.
Minus: Justin Schultz was a great pick up by the Capitals for this season... but he had a rough night, with a number of turnovers and two of his poor decisions resulting in Sabres’ goals.
Plus: We’ve been blessed with Backstrom for 1000 games, and that’s certainly something to be positive about.
A few more notes on the game:
- The Capitals were all out of sorts to start the game, which isn’t unusual after a lengthy pregame ceremony, and the Sabres tilted the ice in their favor. Vitek Vanecek came up with a couple of big saves early to keep the game scoreless... at least for a little whiile.
- Unfortunately, good guy Kyle Okposo took friendly fire, with a puck to the head. He left the game and did not return. Sending good thoughts his way.
- Around 10 minutes into the first, the Capitals started to wake up, with the third line putting together a couple of great shifts with good chances. Unfortunately the man of the evening put an end to that momentum by taking the first penalty of the game - which is appropriate for his 1000th game, because he’s such a goon.
- As the first period died down, the Sabres scored on what was most likely a tip above the crossbar - but without a clear view and with the call on the ice being a goal, the tally stood and the Sabres took a 1-0 lead.
- Thankfully Dmitry Orlov was there to tie the game - and make fans of McNuggets very happy - less than a minute later, scoring with a slapper from the top of the circle to send the teams into the locker room tied.
- Schultz’s roughest run came in the second period, when a turnover onto the stick of Victor Olofsson led to the go-ahead goal by Buffalo. Looking to change the momentum, the Caps went on the power play shortly after - but another poor choice by Schultz led to an odd-man break the other way and the Sabres cashed in shorthanded to jump up 3-1.
- On a delayed penalty that Anthony Mantha drew, the Capitals took their sweet time cycling the puck before John Carlson sent a nice cross ice pass to Mantha who had a tap in to get the Caps within one. The new guy continues to impress.
- The Capitals got lazy again in their own zone before the Sabres forced a turnover and got another pipe in snipe giving them their two goal lead back. Vanecek got hung out to dry and didn’t have a chance on any of his goals but he was pulled to hopefully get a spark going for the Capitals.
- The Capitals looked a bit better in the third but still not great. They had two power plays to get back in the game but couldn’t get anything else to go. Add in some poor puck luck, with posts being hit and shots trickling just wide, and it was bad all around - but the simple fact is that the Caps really didn’t work hard enough to earn good luck, either.
Sometimes it’s the games against the bad teams that can be a concern - and the Sabres have shown a bit more life since replacing their coach. They showed off their newfound speed and work ethic tonight, and it cost the Caps a chance to widen the gap on the Islanders and Penguins.