December 22, 2014

Three Stars: Washington Capitals vs. Buffalo Sabres 11/22/14

This one wasn’t as bad as it looked. The Capitals outshot and outplayed the Sabres, basically everything but outscore them, which is kind of how you win games.

Matt Niskanen

He scored the lone Capitals goal (his first in a Capitals sweater) in the 2-1 loss, registered 4 shots on goal, and played 24:16 (tied with John Carlson for team-high TOI). The goal came on the power play, where Niskanen filled in capably for Mike Green, who left the game after taking only one shift in the third period.

Braden Holtby

Holtby keeps getting better and better. This one loss didn’t mar his SV% too much (he finished the night with a .923), and he’s looking more like the goaltender that the Caps need and expect him to be each night.

Alex Ovechkin:

He didn’t score a goal in the loss, but he registered 8 shots on goal and 5 hits. He played 20:06, which was second to Nicklas Backstrom’s (who played 21:56) TOI for forwards.

Washington Capitals Game 20 Recap: Enroth leads Sabres to 2-1 win over Capitals

“I think we believe we can beat any team in this league, and honestly, any team in this league can play really well on a given night, so you can’t just say because of the Buffalo Sabres’ record, it’s a gimme, and obviously it showed tonight,” said Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby after the team’s 2-1 loss to the lowly Buffalo Sabres.

The Capitals lobbed 44 shots and the kitchen sink at Buffalo’s Jhonas Enroth, but a one-timer from defenseman Matt Niskanen, his first of the season, was the only puck that made it to the back of the net.

Niskanen was filling in at the quarterback position on the power play for Mike Green, who left the game after taking only one shift in the third period.

Barry Trotz told reporters after the game that he didn’t think Green’s injury was serious, but was planning on checking with trainers at some point to confirm.

Holtby stopped 26 of 24 shots, but the blame for the loss could hardly be put on him. Both Buffalo goals were of a fluky nature. Matt Moulson’s second period goal bounced off the boards and over Holtby’s paddle. Holtby called it“one of those freak goals.”

“I was leaning far to my left to be able to see it, the initial shot. I kind of had to move to my right to begin with, and I took a strange hop, lost my footing somehow. I think it went off Carly’s stick and bounced over mine,” he said.

It’s hard to believe it took 20 games for Matt Niskanen to score his first goal as a Capital, but that can be chalked up to not getting as much power play time as Green or John Carlson. If Green is out for any length of time, expect Niskanen to continue filling Green’s spot at the point on the first power play unit.

Niskanen thought that while there were some good takeaways from the game, the Capitals could have done a few things better, like get traffic in front of the net.

“A lot of pucks hit the net. We could get more bodies in front of the crease,” said Niskanen. “Their goalie was good tonight, but I think he saw too many. More than we would like. We’ve got to start working that into our game. We’re doing a lot of good things, but goalies in this league, if they see shots, they’re going to stop them most of the time.”

Nicklas Backstrom, who registered only one shot on goal in the loss, thinks the team is better than their record shows.

“I think we are playing better at home than the results look like. We’ve got to find a way to start winning home games as well,” said Backstrom.  “We have to show teams that this our barn and this is where we are going to take most of our points. We need to change that for sure.”

Washington Capitals Game 53 Recap: “Game Over” Green beats Sabres in OT 5-4

OVECHKIN, GREEN SCORE TWICE AS CAPS WIN SECOND IN A ROW

Mike Green scored twice, including the game-winner in overtime, to lead the Washington Capitals over the Buffalo Sabres 5-4 on Tuesday.

The win is the Caps’ (24-21-8) second in a row following a 7-game losing streak.

The Caps jumped out early, with Alex Ovechkin hammering home a faceoff win on the Caps first power play, his 37th of the season and 14th power play goal — both league leading. Martin Erat drew the penalty as he was tripped by Matt Ellis on his way through the neutral zone.

Just 53 seconds later, after a breakdown in the Buffalo defensive end, Mike Green blasted a shot that deflected off Ovechkin’s pants and past Jhonas Enroth for his second of the night.

Buffalo halved the lead at 13:45. Tyler Ennis carried the puck in along the left boards and tossed it on net. Holtby made the first save on Matt Moulson, but defensemane Christian Ehrloff skated right around John Erskine and got two whacks at the loose puck, with the final one chipping the puck past Holtby to make it 2-1.

Dmitry Orlov took a bad tripping penalty just 52 seconds into the second period, and the Sabres made the Caps pay. A cross-crease pass by Moulson found Cody Hodgson all alone on the far post and he roofed it over Holtby’s right shoulder to tie the game at two.

Following a tremendous shift by the Erat-Beagle-Wilson line, Green took an Orlov pass, skated to and behind the Sabres net, and scored on a wraparound for his 100th goal in the NHL.

But has been the case all season, the Caps couldn’t live with prosperity. Just 1:02 after Green’s goal, a systematic defensive breakdown left Sabres rookie Philip Varone alone on the far post to score his first NHL goal. It’s the 24th time this season the Caps have allowed a goal less than two minutes after scoring one this season.

But the Caps answered before the end of the period to regain a one-goal lead. With Henrik Tallinder off for hooking, Ovechkin found Martin Erat below the goal line, who fed Troy Brouwer in the slot for a one-timer past Enroth for his 10th goal of the season.

Hodgson tied it up at 6:48 of the third. Jason Chimera was going to be called for holding, and he stopped skating to argue the penalty, which allowed Hodgson to fake out Karl Alzner and drive to the net. John Carlson wasn’t able to cut him off, and Hodgson’s backhanded shot eluded Holtby to make it 4-4.

The Capitals were outworked in the third period but managed to get the game to overtime, where a terrific passing sequence from Erat to Ovechkin to Green resulted in Green’s second goal of the game and a 5-4 win.

CAPS NOTES: The Caps recalled Ryan Stoa from AHL Hershey before the game de to Brooks Laich being questionable for the game, but Laich suited up. Stoa was screatched, along with Mikhail Grabovski and Aaron Volpatti.

Washington Capitals Game 39 Recap: Capitals fall 2-1 to Sabres in shootout

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 29: Matt Ellis #37 of the Buffalo Sabres defends against Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals at First Niagara Center on December 29, 2013 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

BUFFALO, NY – DECEMBER 29: Matt Ellis #37 of the Buffalo Sabres defends against Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals at First Niagara Center on December 29, 2013 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

This season, the Capitals have been lucky to win games solely on their goaltender’s merit on several occasions, and haven’t faced another truly “hot” goalie until their trip to Buffalo on Sunday night. They peppered Ryan Miller with 50 shots on goal, but lost 2-1 in a shootout to the struggling Sabres, who only managed 17 shots on goal. It was the first time the Capitals have outshot an opponent in their last six games.

Troy Brouwer answered the Sabres’ late second period tally with one of his own in the third, the Capitals’ only goal of the game. “I thought that was the best game I’ve seen (Troy) Brouwer play,” coach Adam Oates told reporters after the game. In addition to his goal, Brouwer had five shots on goal, and went 83 percent in the dot, winning 5 of 6 faceoffs. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 34 Recap: Capitals Rally to Stun Sabres, Gain in Chase

BUFFALO | With their season hanging in the balance, the Washington Capitals rallied to eke out a 4-3 shootout win over the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center Saturday night, opening a critical road trip by getting two valuable standings point.

A poor start put the Capitals in a 3-1 hole early in the third period, but a shorthanded tally by Troy Brouwer and a last-minute tally by Mike Green forced overtime, where Matt Hendricks and Alex Ovechkin both scored on Sabres netminder Jhonas Enroth in the shootout.

Ovechkin turned in a tremendous effort in Washington’s only visit to Buffalo, scoring his 17th of the year and also adding the deciding shootout goal.

The win comes at a critical time, as they gain points on the Jets, Rangers and Islanders, moving just five points back of Winnipeg in the Southeast race, and two back of the Rangers in the chase for 8th in the East.

Buffalo – a team missing their top sniper in Thomas Vanek, having traded defenseman Jordan Leopold, and playing backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth – scored just 3:01 into the game and didn’t trail again until Braden Holtby was pulled for the extra attacker. While the Caps nearly won the game in overtime, the shootout allowed Washington to steal two points out of Western New York.

The Sabres started off quickly, cashing in early on a turnover in the Washington end, as Christian Ehrhoff fired a shot past Holtby to put the Sabres on the board just 3:01 in. While Washington got a four-minute power-play when Mike Weber went to the box for a high-stick, the Caps couldn’t take advantage, having difficulty setting up on the extra-man advantage.

The Sabres boosted their lead to 2-0 just 79 seconds into the second as Villie Leino scored his first of the year past Holtby off a rebound of a Tyler Ennis shot.

Tyler Ennis went to the box just :28 after the goal, however, and the Capitals took advantage. Alex Ovechkin scored just :34 into the power-play to bring the Capitals within one, firing a shot past Enroth, and giving him his 17th of the year.

But another bad breakdown in the Washington end proved costly, as Leino was allowed to poke a puck sitting off the post just past the halfway mark of the frame.

While Washington outshot the Sabres 17-8 in the second, the Capitals fell further behind in the contest.

Troy Browuer cut the lead to 3-2 with a short-handed tally with John Carlson in the box for a delay-of-game penalty, beating Enroth with a wrister for his 13th of the year. Despite a power-play opportunity on a Tyler Myers hit on Jason Chimera, the Capitals pushed and couldn’t net the equalizer until the final minute.

With Holtby out, the Caps controlled the biscuit, but couldn’t beat Enroth. However, Green unleashed a shot from the point that went off the post and off the Sabres netminder to earn the Caps the valuable point.

Mike Ribeiro had a golden chance to end the game in overtime with Enroth down, but the netminder put in a terrific glove save. But in the shootout, both Hendricks and Ovechkin netted goals as the Caps moved to 2-0 for the year in the tiebreaker.

With just two games left until the trade deadline – and a chance to gain further ground Sunday in Philadelphia – the Capitals will see if they can cut the deficit further and try and to recover from the poor start to the season.

Washington Capitals Game 28 Recap: Capitals roll Sabres 5-3

Sunday night, the Washington Capitals (11-15-1, 23 points) took on the Buffalo Sabres (10-14-4, 24 points), both teams in need of a couple of standings points to keep their heads above water in the Eastern conference.

Just 19 seconds in, Alex Ovechkin scored the game’s maiden goal off a Nicklas Backstrom faceoff win. His fiancée, Maria Kirilenko, was in the arena – the last time she made an appearance, Feb. 23, Ovechkin scored a hat trick in a win against the New Jersey Devils.

The Sabres got one back early in the second period on a Cody Hodgson shot to tie the game 1-1. Five minutes later, Troy Brouwer scored on the power play, all credit to the slick pass from Mike Ribiero that left him wide open in the slot.

Jason Chimera finally burst the dam on his scoring drought and notched his first goal of the season to put the Capitals up 3-1 halfway through the second period. His last goal came against the New York Rangers on May 9, 2012 during Game 6 of their playoff series.

Less than a minute later, Marcus Johansson scored his third goal of the season, and just like that, the Capitals were rolling over the Sabres  4-1. The Sabres answered, and Brian Flynn’s late tally narrowed the score to 4-2.

After a power play goal by Hodgson, his second goal of the game, the Sabres inched ever closer. The Capitals were ever closer to letting yet another lead slip away from them.

Mathieu Perreault, though, sealed the win with his fifth goal of the season after a crucial late penalty kill. Shortly after goaltender Braden Holtby came up with perhaps his biggest save of the game, Perreault danced his way through two Buffalo defensemen and hit the back of the net.

Final score: Capitals 5, Sabres 3. With the next eight of their next nine games on the road, the Capitals desperately needed to start the week off with a win before heading to Pittsburgh — tops in the Eastern Conference — where they’ll take on the Penguins Tuesday evening.

Washington Capitals Game 5 Recap: Oates Gets First Win as Caps Top Sabres

WASHINGTON–A relieved Adam Oates walked into the press room at Verizon Center Sunday, after having earned his first NHL victory as a head coach with the Washington Capitals topping the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in a matinee.

For Capitals fans who saw the team stumble out of the gate with an 0-3-1 start to the year, it certainly was a welcome change. Washington rallied from an early Tyler Ennis goal to even the score by the end of the period thanks to a Joel Ward tally, then added a John Erskine goal in the second and Alex Ovechkin’s first goal of the season in the third on a one-timer.

Afterwards, Ward said he felt the team was building off Friday’s 3-2 overtime loss to New Jersey.

“I thought the confidence was there, I thought the mood was upbeat even though we lost in OT,” he said in a happy locker room. “I thought we brought the momentum again today and slowly picked at them and kind of wore them down a little bit. [Read more…]

Washington Capitals Game 5 Postgame Audio: Oates, Ovi, Ward & More

WASHINGTON–Adam Oates finally got his first win as a head coach and the Washington Capitals became the last team in the NHL with a victory as they defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 at Verizon Center.

“I’m just glad, finally,”  Oates said about his first victory behind the bench.  “I was kind of hoping it’d be sooner but I’m glad.”

A big part of the win was staying out of the box, as the Caps only had two penalties on the night and were a perfect two-for-two on the penalty kill.

“Yeah, at least they weren’t coming in clumps, and we didn’t give up a five-on-three, so we’re going in the right direction right now,”  Caps forward Troy Brouwer said.  “But power play got a good goal. You know, we moved it around pretty well, got some good looks and outside of special teams, we had guys like Wardo [Joel Ward] step it up again tonight. That whole line has been great for us the last couple games.” [Read more…]

Caps in Advance: Week 26

Five months, 25 weeks, 79 games…the Washington Capitals’ entire season boils down to what happens in the last week of the season.

With three games remaining, Washington’s playoff future is still very much up in the air. Depending on how this week shakes out, the Caps could squeak into the playoffs as a 7 or 8 seed, win the Southeast Division and secure home ice as the 3 seed, or finish 9th in the Eastern Conference and miss the playoffs entirely.

While a large portion of the Caps’ possible playoff spots depends on the results earned by other teams, Washington controls its own destiny in terms of just getting into the postseason.

Any combination of four points won by Washington or lost by the Buffalo Sabres will clinch a playoff berth for the Caps. That means that the Caps could make it in without a win, if Buffalo chokes away two of its last three games, but there’s no doubt Dale Hunter’s squad would far prefer to win at least two of its final three to guarantee the playoffs on its own terms. [Read more…]

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