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Capitals vs. Sabres Recap: Caps Complete Comeback in 5-4 Shootout Win

The Caps completed a comeback effort with a late goal from Wilson and a shootout victory.

Buffalo Sabres v Washington Capitals Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Time for some Hump Day hockey, Caps fans! The Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres faced off tonight for the third and final time this season. The Caps are 0-1-1 against the Sabres this season, so they were looking to get one win on the season series. If the Capitals want to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, tonight is pretty much a must-win scenario. A loss tonight drops their maximum possible point total to 97, which is probably not going to cut it in a competitive Metro Division and Eastern Conference.

Here are tonight’s line combinations:

Tonight was Charlie Lindgren’s first start since February 23, a 4-2 loss to the Ducks at home. Sonny Milano missed his second game in as many days tonight, still sick with a non-Covid illness. Alex Ovechkin rejoined the lineup after missing last night’s game against the Rangers, and hopefully his return will kick his teammates into high gear.

Here’s Wednesday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Alex Ovechkin career goal number 817. Watch out Wayne, 78 to go...

Minus: Washington’s effort was lacking through the first 40, with a sleepy start and infrequent bursts of energy. That’s not going to do it for a team still hoping to squeak into the postseason.

And now, he’s baaaaack:

A few more thoughts on tonight’s game:

1. The Buffalo Sabres got on the board first tonight at 4:43 of the first after a sleepy start from both teams–this was the first shot on goal of the game. Ilya Lyubushkin found an opening and fired a long-range point shot through traffic, and Kyle Okposo was down in front to screen Charlie Lindgren. The shot beat Lindgren glove-side, and the Sabres took a 1-0 lead.

Hmm, the start of this game sure feels familiar…

2. Wait, what was that about this game feeling familiar? 4:07 after Lyubushkin’s tally, the Sabres doubled their lead with a rush goal. Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka got the odd-man rush going down the ice, and Quinn deked around Trevor van Riemsdyk to set up Peterka for the tap-in.

3. The Capitals got the game’s first power play chance of the game just under halfway through the first, and it took T.J. Oshie and the Caps just 17 seconds to convert and get on the board. Alex Ovechkin faked a one-timer from his office and fed Dylan Strome down in front instead. Strome got unlucky and hit the post on his shot, but Oshie was there to collect the rebound for his 18th goal of the season

Strome is now riding a six-game point streak and is one point away from 50 on the season (16G, 33A). Rasmus Sandin didn’t get a point on this one, but he got the play started with a pass that found Ovechkin in the left circle. 2-1 Buffalo with 9:57 before first intermission.

4. The Capitals had a few great shifts in a row towards the end of the first, but Tyson Jost restored Buffalo’s two-goal lead with a top-corner snipe past Lindgren with 1:54 to go. Conor Sheary got tripped up on a zone entry but the referees missed the call, and Jost ended up with the puck for an easy play. In nine games against the Caps, Jost now has four goals.

That’s another 3-1 deficit after 20 against a New York team–are we watching a replay of last night?

5. Rasmus Sandin took a Henri Jokiharju shot off his left knee towards the end of the second and immediately went down in pain, grabbing his knee. The training staff came out onto the ice to Sandin, and Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie helped him off the ice. Sandin was not putting any weight on his left leg, and he had to be helped down the tunnel to the locker room. The puck caught him on the outside of his knee, where there is little to no padding to help absorb a shot. Hopefully it was just a stinger, but Sandin was in a lot of pain.

6. 92 seconds into the third period, number 92 brought the Caps within one again. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored his 12th goal of the season off a nice setup from Alex Alexeyev, who recorded his fourth assist of the season on the goal. Kuznetsov’s shot from the slot redirected off Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen’s side and into the net.

7. The Caps were out-shooting the Sabres 9-0, so Buffalo called a timeout with 15:54 left in the third to try and regroup. However, there was something much more important to note here: Rasmus Sandin reappeared. He took a twirl on the ice during the Sabres’ timeout and remained on the bench. Take a deep breath, Caps fans.

8. Stop us if you’ve heard this before: the Capitals put a ton of pressure on the Sabres with several great shifts in a row, but the Sabres scored to restore their two-goal lead. Peyton Krebs made an incredible effort on the forecheck before setting Zemgus Girgensons up down in front for a goal at 5:22 of the third. 4-2 Buffalo.

9. Red alert: we have Alex Ovechkin career goal number 817! Lindgren made a beautiful save on a Jack Quinn tip-in attempt at one end of the ice, and the Caps brought the puck down to the other end and scored. Trevor van Riemsdyk let a point shot fly, and Ovechkin was down in front to redirect the puck past UPL with 9:30 left.

This was Ovechkin’s 402nd career home goal, passing Mike Gartner for the fourth-most home goals in NHL history. Fun fact: because of outdoor games, this marked Ovi’s 400th goal at Capital One Arena.

10. With 3:42 to go, Ovechkin was called for slashing on Lyubushkin. It looked like Lyubushkin broke his own stick with the torque on a slapshot, and the Caps protested the call before going on the penalty kill for the second time tonight. Buffalo’s power play was cut short with an Alex Tuch roughing call on Matt Irwin. Cue 42 seconds of four-on-four hockey! Neither team converted with the extra room out there, so the Capitals got an abbreviated power play to end the game.

11. The Capitals then pulled Lindgren for a six-on-four advantage to try and tie the game, and tie the game they did! Tom Wilson tied the game with a power play goal with 1:08 remaining. The pass from Nicklas Backstrom was stunning, and Wilson’s goal was even more impressive.

4-4 all, to OT we go!

12. Tage Thompson had the first good opportunity in overtime after a 1:55 shift from both Wilson and Sandin, but Lindgren made the stop. The Sabres controlled the puck for the majority of extra time, but Oshie drew a tripping penalty on Dylan Cozens with 56.5 to go to give the Caps a four-on-three OT power play. Sandin fed Ovechkin for a one-timer three times on the power play, but none of Ovechkin’s shots found the back of the net.

13. Time for a skills competition, folks! The Capitals are 1-3 in the shootout this season, and the Sabres are 1-1. The Caps opted to go first in the shootout, sending Kuznetsov out to (slowly) get things started.

Kuznetsov beat Luukkonen, and Lindgren saved Tuch’s shot. Oshie was up second for Washington and he scored as well.

Lindgren sealed the 5-4 victory with another shootout save, this one on Thompson. Capitals win and grab another two points.

Up next for the Caps: a St. Patrick’s Day meeting with the St. Louis Blues on Friday at 7pm ET.