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Capitals vs. Sabres Recap: Sabres Stave Off Caps Comeback in 5-4 OT Win

Ovechkin scores twice but Thompson’s hatty propels Buffalo to a victory in Washington.

NHL: JAN 03 Sabres at Capitals Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres met in DC tonight for the first of three games this season. The Caps and Sabres were two of the NHL’s hottest teams in December, with the Caps going 11-2-2 and the Sabres going 8-2-1 in the final month of 2022. The Sabres suffered a New Year’s Day loss against the Senators, but the Capitals were still riding the high of their 9-2 thrashing of the Canadiens on New Year’s Eve.

Here’s how the Capitals lined up tonight:

See that familiar name on Washington’s third line? That’s right, folks, T.J. Oshie returned to the Caps’ lineup tonight for the first time since being sidelined by a non-contact injury against the Maple Leafs on December 17. Darcy Kuemper got the start for the Caps tonight, with Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen starting in net for Buffalo.

Before tonight’s game began, the Capitals held a moment of silence for Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin. Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest during last night’s NFL game in Cincinnati and remains in critical condition. The Rink Team joins the rest of the sports community in sending our best wishes to Hamlin, his family, and the entire Bills’ organization.

Here’s Tuesday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Alex Ovechkin, guys. He cannot be stopped.

Minus: Defense was clearly optional tonight. In particular, the Orlov-Jensen pairing for Washington did not look as sharp as usual.

And now, welcome back Oshbabe!

A few more thoughts on tonight’s game:

1. The Sabres scored at 10:48 of the first after an incredible play from who else but Tage Thompson, who is currently second in the league in goals with 27. Thompson got a two-on-one rush going with Alex Tuch, and Thompson sent a beautiful spin-o-rama pass to Tuch. Yeah, you read that right, a spin-o-rama pass. Tuch finished the play off with a wrist shot past Darcy Kuemper, 1-0 Sabres.

2. That Sabres’ lead certainly did not last long! On the next shift of the game, Sonny Milano tied things up with a breakaway tally. He got loose and Rasmus Dahlin couldn’t catch him, so he had plenty of time and space to roof a backhanded shot past Luukkonen. 1-1 with 7:53 left in the first.

3. With 3:03 to go before first intermission. T.J. Oshie was called for high-sticking on Kyle Okposo to give Buffalo the game’s first power play opportunity. The Sabres have the league’s third-best power play, and it only took them 32 seconds to show everyone at Capital One Arena why. Tage Thompson did his best Alex Ovechkin impression on his league-leading 28th goal of the season, scoring on a one-timer from the left circle. 2-1 Sabres after 20 minutes of play.

4. The Tage Thompson show continued into the second period second period got off to a better start than the first for the Capitals, but unfortunately it was Tage Thompson who scored 5:50 in to put the Sabres up by two. Thompson’s goal came on a snapshot from the slot, and the puck went top corner and beat Kuemper blocker-side. And this time, it was Tuch setting up Thompson with a beautiful pass on the play.

5. With 3:14 left in the second, Alex Ovechkin brought the Capitals back within one with a no-doubter past Luukkonen. The Capitals had been dominant at the faceoff dot all game, and they were able to convert that success into a goal. Evgeny Kuznetsov won the draw and immediately sent the puck to Ovechkin, who fired off a glove-side top corner shot for his 27th goal of the season and number 807 of his career. Update on The List™: Luukkonen is the 167th goalie Ovechkin has scored against.

6. 55 seconds into the third, the new-look line of Milano-Dowd-Oshie tied the game at 3-3. Milano threw the puck on net from a sharp angle and Dowd was in the right place at the right time to scoop up the rebound and find the back of the net. This is Dowd’s seventh goal in his last 13 games, and his 10th on the season.

Dowd is now one goal away from tying the single-season career high of 11 he set in the 2020-2021 season.

7. Ovechkin saw Thompson score twice earlier and clearly took that personally, because he gave the Capitals their first lead of the game at 7:10 of the third. The Capitals lost the draw to the left of Luukkonen, but Conor Sheary made an incredible effort on the forecheck to dig the puck out and send it to Ovechkin in the slot. Ovi was wide open and fired the puck top corner, this time blocker-side.

He’s 86 goals away, boys and girls and babes.

8. Tyson Jost evened things up less than five minutes after Ovi’s second goal with a redirect right in front of Kuemper, who had just made an incredible save mere seconds before. The Sabres kept the pressure on Washington, and it paid off. 4-4 hockey game with 8:18 left.

9. Evgeny Kuznetsov took a seat for tripping Rasmus Dahlin with exactly two minutes remaining in regulation. Then, with 16.2 to go, Lars Eller was called for tripping Alex Tuch to give the Sabres a 5-on-3 advantage. Fortunately the Caps managed to kill of Kuznetsov’s penalty and picked up at least one point in tonight’s game, but regulation ended with the game still tied at 4-4 and Eller still in the box.

10. The Sabres started overtime with a 4-on-3 advantage, and Thompson got a good opportunity 1:08 into extra time. Thankfully for Washington, Martin Fehervary got in the way to block the shot. More good news for the Caps: they held the Sabres to one shot while Eller was in the sin bin.

11. Tage Thompson won the game for the Sabres to complete the hat trick. Eller made a brutal turnover behind Kuemper’s net and and Alex Tuch made him and the Caps pay for it. Tuch found Thompson down in front, and Thompson did not miss. This was yet another bad overtime performance from Washington. Buffalo wins it 5-4.

Up next for the Caps: a trip to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets this Thursday at 7pm ET.