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Capitals @ Sabres Recap: Cozens Hatty Havoc in 7-4 Sabres Win

Defense was optional this afternoon as Dylan Cozens’ hatty powers the Sabres past the Capitals.

Washington Capitals v Buffalo Sabres Photo by Ben Green/NHLI via Getty Images

The Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres faced off this afternoon less than 24 hours after Washington had a dominant win over the New York Rangers at home. The Caps were looking to build off that momentum in Buffalo this afternoon, while the Sabres were looking to keep their Wild Card hopes alive with two points today.

Here’s how the Capitals lined up this afternoon:

This is the first time this season that Charlie Lindgren has not started the second half of a back-to-back for the Capitals. Instead, Darcy Kuemper is starting back-to-back games for the 12th time in his career. He has a .948 SV% in these situations, so hopefully that will bode well for Washington this afternoon.

Here’s Sunday afternoon’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Alex Ovechkin scored a goal, boys and girls and babes. A win is a win.

Minus: Defense? Never heard of her.

And now, this delightful moment:

A few more thoughts on today’s game:

1. After both teams made it clear that defense was optional this afternoon, Dylan Cozens got the Sabres on the board first 10:40 into the game. Casey Mittelstadt set Cozens up beautifully with a pass to the slot off the rush, and Cozens was able to evade Dylan Strome and bury the puck past Darcy Kuemper. 1-0 Buffalo, with plenty of hockey left.

2. To make up for his defensive oops on Cozens’ goal, Dylan Strome tied things up with 5:15 left in the first. This Washington goal actually came right after Cozens missed a breakaway opportunity at the other end. Nick Jensen made a great play to keep the puck in the offensive-zone before finding a wide open Strome in the slot, who shot the puck short-side past Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.

3. A brutal turnover from Evgeny Kuznetsov resulted in Buffalo’s second goal of the afternoon with 3:25 left in the first. Kuzy served up a pass to Tage Thompson on a silver platter, and Thompson fired a dart from the slot to restore Buffalo’s lead with his 40th goal of the season.

4. 15 seconds later, TJ Oshie got in on the goal-scoring party with his fourth goal in three games. Dylan Strome set Oshie up beautifully, and Oshie rocketed the puck into the back of the net past UPL. Fun fact: this is Oshie’s 350th point as a Capital.

That’s three goals and two assists so far this weekend for Oshie. Additionally, two assists for Nick Jensen today makes 100 in his career — congrats, Jensen!

5. After a dominant offensive-zone shift for the Capitals did not result in a goal, though not for lack of trying, Jeff Skinner restored Buffalo’s lead at 5:49 of the second. Nick Jensen lost his stick briefly on the play, and the Sabres took advantage. A shot on Kuemper trickled behind him, and Skinner was there to tap it home. 3-2 Buffalo.

6. Three minutes later, Zemgus Girgensons doubled the Sabres’ lead after strong forecheck from Buffalo’s fourth line. The Capitals lost a puck battle in the corner, and Kyle Okposo fed Girgensons down low with a great pass. It was a bad look for both Dylan McIlrath and Matt Irwin on this one, 4-2 Sabres.

7. A mere 90 seconds after that, Vinny Hinostroza put the Sabres up 5-2 after yet another complete defensive breakdown from Washington. Kuemper broke his stick on the goal post after this one, and we can’t really blame him.

Charlie Lindgren in, Darcy Kuemper out. Kuemper also threw his helmet when he reached the bench.

8. Another turnover, another Sabres goal. Nic Dowd’s o-zone pass to the middle of the ice was picked off by Jack Quinn, and Quinn flipped the puck over to Cozens on a short breakaway for the Sabres’ sixth goal of the day at 12:49 of the second.

This is the third goal today for which the Irwin/McIlrath pairing has been on the ice. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s four goals for the Sabres in the second period compared to Washington’s one (1) shot on goal.

9. Alert: Alex Ovechkin scored a goal! He’d gone six games without a goal, but he put that streak to bed today with a goal down in front. A Caps’ shot went wide off the board behind UPL and bounced right back to Ovi, who did not waste the opportunity. This was Ovechkin’s first goal since his father Mikhail passed, and he looked up to the sky after finding the back of the net.

Number 33 on the season, number 813 of his career. Watch out, Wayne.

10. This game is getting feisty, folks. Nicolas Aube-Kubel thought Jack Quinn kicked Lindgren’s skates out from under him, so NAK went to defend Chuck’s honor by fighting Quinn. NAK got the additional minor for cross-checking, giving the Sabres the game’s first power play opportunity at 16:32 of the second. Then, with 33 seconds left on NAK’s extra minor, Fehervary and Cozens got into it and this time it was the Sabres getting dinged for the extra minor penalty. After 33 seconds of four-on-four, the Capitals got their first power play of the day.

11. Oh how the tables have turned: a Sabres turnover leads to a Capitals goal! Sonny Milano got a gift as he left the box after a lazy pass from Casey Mittelstadt floated back down the ice. Milano snagged the puck and converted on the breakaway with a slick forehand-backhand move that he got over UPL’s glove.

Sonny said, “Power play? Don’t need it, I’ve got it covered boys.” 6-4 Buffalo with 1:20 left in the middle frame.

12. Nick Jensen was called for hooking at 7:09 of the third, giving Buffalo their second power play of the day. Dylan Cozens came close to a hatty early in the man-advantage, but did not manage to convert. Washington’s penalty kill stayed solid, keeping the Sabres’ power play off the board.

13. Unfortunately for the Caps, Dylan Cozens would not be denied the first hat trick of his career. He scored his third goal of the game at 11:52 of the third to put the Sabres up 7-4. This is the fourth hatty the Capitals have allowed this season, and the second one by the Sabres.

Up next for the Caps: the yearly California road trip kicks off with a Wednesday, March 1 at 10pm ET.