Reporting Sky Kerstein
It hasn’t been easy for the Capitals against the Buffalo Sabres this season. In two games, both in buffalo, they have been outscored by a combined 9-3, but playing at Verizon Center gave the Caps, and most importantly Alex Ovechkin, a lift as they ended the Sabres dominance against them this season beating Buffalo 3-1 for their second win in a row.
Last time the Caps played the Sabres it didn’t go too well early and the Caps needed a good start tonight.
“Very important, especially when we played them last time, they had a 4-0 lead in the first period,” Caps forward Nicklas Backstrom said. “So we knew we had to come out hard and make sure that we did the right things out there. I think we did a good job with that today.”
And for the second game in a row the Caps got the fast start they needed when they went to an early power play only 27 seconds into the game and Alex Ovechkin took advantage passing it across the crease and it got deflected by a Sabres stick and in beating Ryan Miller. For Ovechkin, that was his first home power play goal of the season, his 13th of the season which ties the team lead and it gave the Caps an early 1-0 lead that they would hold for the rest of the first period.
The Caps had some other chances, but couldn’t convert and it got a little fiesty with Jason Chimera and Troy Brouwer both getting five minute majors for fighting Mike Weber and Christian Ehrhoff. Ehrhoff didn’t return to the Sabres line up with an injury. The Caps out shot the Sabres 11-2 in the first and had a lot of momentum heading to the second.
In the second the Caps made it a 2-o lead with some really nice passing starting with Alexander Semin who stole the puck in his defensive zone, dropped it to Ovechkin just over the red line who found Roman Hamrlik on the left boards over the blue line who passed it cross ice back to Semin and Semin found Nicklas Backstrom right down the middle who hit the open net. For Backstrom that’s his 13th goal of the season, which ties the team lead, and his 100th career goal.
The Caps were rolling, but started playing back and the Sabres took advantage later in the period when Jochen Hecht put in a Thomas Vanek rebound to cut the lead to one. The Sabres out shot the Caps 15-6 in the period and if it wasn’t for some nice saves from Tomas Vokoun it could’ve been a lot worse.
The Sabres continued to get most of the chances in the third period, but Tomas Vokoun continued to play great. Alex Ovechkin said afterwards that Vokoun was “unbelievable” tonight and he kept the Caps in it long enough to put the game away. Ovechkin received the puck right between the circles on a perfect pass from Nicklas Backstrom and just blasted it right by Ryan Miller for his second of the night, his team leading 14th of the season, and gave the Caps a 3-1 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“The players came out and played hard and played smart and created some good chances and didn’t give up much,” Head Coach Dale Hunter said.
For Ovechkin, he now has four goals and three assists in his last five games and line-mate Alexander Semin had two assists on the night and he has four goals and four assists in his last six games. Nicklas Backstrom had a goal and assist on the night center Ovechkin and Semin and has two goals and four assists in his last five games.
“We have been struggling a little bit and finally we get the stuff going and we’re moving the puck pretty good, we’re shooting and I think we are creating a lot of good chances,” Backstrom said on playing with Ovechkin and Semin. That’s what we got to do. Then you have to make sure you play good defense and I think we are all doing that the last two games.”
Tomas Vokoun ended up with 25 saves for his second win in a row.
“Momentum changes all the time in the games and so you got to stay ready and hopefully when they come you are able to do the job and help the team win,” Vokoun said on his performance after only having two shots come his way in the first period.
The Caps, who are 6-3-1 in their last ten, but only 6-10-1 on the road, head to Columbus tonight to play the Blue Jackets tomorrow and try to finish up 2011 on a winning note. They are now 19-15-2, 40 points on the year and 7-6-1 under Dale Hunter.
One Side Note:
The Caps announced following the game that they’ve recalled forward Cody Eakin from Hershey and he will travel with them to Columbus for tomorrow’s game.
Check out what Dale Hunter, Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Tomas Vokoun and Troy Brouwer had to say after the win.
Locker Room Video (Troy Brouwer, Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin, Tomas Vokoun)
Dale Hunter Press Conference Video
1st 1:42 PP Ovechkin (13), Vokoun (2)
2nd 3:52 Backstrom (13, 100th career goal), Semin (9), Hamrlik (2)
3rd 14:10 Ovechkin (14, team lead), Backstrom (25), Semin (10)
Dale Hunter Postgame Audio
Alex Ovechkin Postgame Audio
Nicklas Backstrom Postgame Audio
Tomas Vokoun Postgame Audio
Troy Brouwer Postgame Audio