Even when things are going their way, the Washington Capitals have a way of keeping things a little tenser than you’d like. The Caps threatened to run away from the Buffalo Sabres with three goals in the second period on Sunday night, but still ended up sweating it just a bit until the final five minutes.
In the end, all that matters is that Washington held on for a 5-3 win at Verizon Center. Marcus Johansson scored his second in as many nights for the game-winner, and Jason Chimera found the back of the net for the first time in 2013 as five different Capitals lit the lamp.
Alex Ovechkin‘s 11th goal of the season got things off to a quick start for the home team just 19 seconds into the game. But Cody Hodgson got the Sabres on the board even faster to start the second, putting one by a partially screened Braden Holtby to tie it 1-1 at 0:12 of the second period.
Buffalo turned things up a notch after a somewhat lethargic opening frame, but Washington seized control with three goals in a span of 5:22. Troy Brouwer scored from the slot on the power play before turning playmaker to set up Chimera’s long-awaited goal with a nifty backhand feed. Johansson knocked in a puck during a scramble around the Sabres’ crease to make it 4-1 with 9:32 left in the second stanza.
A fortunate hop allowed Brian Flynn to score for Buffalo before the period was over, and Hodgson scored his second of the game with Chimera off for slashing to cut the deficit to 4-3 with plenty of time left in regulation. But it was Mathieu Perreault who had the last word, making a superb move to cut across the slot from right to left and sticking with the play even after briefly losing the puck to bag his fifth goal of the season.
The Sabres pulled Miller with 2:12 left, but Steve Ott doused any chances of late game heroics by earning an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with less than two minutes to play. Ott had done his usual good job of agitating prior to that, even suckering Steven Oleksy into a roughing call when the rookie defenseman had dropped his gloves and assumed Ott was willing to fight.
One bit of bad news came on the injury front, with Tom Poti leaving the game after 7:38 of playing time. His injury threatens to test the depth on the blue line once again, as Mike Green, John Erskine and Tomas Kundratek all missed the game with various ailments.
But it’s the two points that were the biggest takeaway for the Capitals, keeping their hopes alive for the postseason for the time being. The next stretch of the schedule is a brutal one, beginning with a trip to red hot Pittsburgh on Tuesday night, and any momentum the Caps can take into it is undoubtedly welcome.
The game was over when…
Perreault responded to being a healthy scratch last game in the best possible way. He was lively all night, but his move on the insurance goal was truly a nice mix of skill and determination.
The unsung Capitals hero was…
Probably Holtby, who didn’t look like he had his ‘A’ game early but came up big when it counted. He weathered a bit of a second period storm, then flashed some leather to come up with a great glove save right at the end of Oleksy’s third period penalty. Perreault scored right after that, so it was definitely a key stop.