If you handed out style points, the Washington Capitals wouldn’t have loaded up on a ton tonight. They earned two standings points, however, which is what really matters.
It wasn’t easy, but Washington topped the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 via a shootout victory. In the process, the Capitals expanded their lead over the Boston Bruins for the East’s top wild card spot to four points and really pulled away from the bubble pack.
Again, the Capitals had to hold their breath (while the Bruins and others crossed their fingers) for much of the contest.
Buffalo got off to a 1-0 lead by taking advantage of a power play initiated by some rough stuff from Alex Ovechkin. The Sabres also finished the first period with a 2-1 edge.
Washington chipped away in the second period, eventually tying things up thanks to a Mike Green goal. Evgeny Kuznetsov’s power-play snipe gave the Capitals their first lead of the contest:
The Sabres didn’t go quietly, however, as Johan Larsson locked things up at 3-3. Despite plenty of chances for both sides – including a bucket of shots by Ovechkin all night – an eventual overtime period went without a goal.
Braden Holtby ultimately held on for a shootout win, giving him two crucial wins in as many appearances. He would probably agree that it wasn’t easy, though:
Sometimes successful teams just need to grind out wins, and this seems like a solid example of that for Washington.
Buffalo, meanwhile, remains last overall in the NHL (although Edmonton was glad to see the gap between them close from four to three points).
Most players would kill to score 71 points in 64 games for a playoff-caliber team, but those totals are relatively weak for Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby. At least, that’s what many would argue.
Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is tired of such notions, as he told the Canadian Press.
“It’s total nitpicking because there’s nothing wrong with him,” Rutherford said Monday at the general managers meeting. “His play, to me, has been as good as it’s ever been.”
Rutherford praises Crosby for buying in to working hard in all areas of the ice instead of “cheating” to create offense.
The 27-year-old sang a similar tune about his overall play a few days ago, stating that he wouldn’t change anything that he’s been doing (although he’d love to score more).
The offense has been there in the same volume, indeed. He’s scoring at a rate of 1.11 point-per-game, which is the lowest average of his career (his previous low was 1.26 from his rookie season). Still, his possession stats look fine, and one could argue that the bounces haven’t been there in the same quantities at times in 2014-15.
Honestly, one can understand the frustration for Crosby and the Penguins in general, as any perceived cold streak is placed under the magnifying glass. It’s easy to forget that Pittsburgh remains an East contender and Crosby could very well win another Art Ross Trophy despite missing a chunk of games with injury issues.
Not that bad of a problem to have then, right?
Not that long ago, Max Pacioretty was chasing in on other peoples’ mistakes. He found himself on the other end of that proposition on Monday.
A very unfortunate Pacioretty pass found its way to Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos, who scored against Carey Price:
That goal was unassisted … technically.
So far, it’s been one of those nights for the Montreal Canadiens, who find themselves down 3-0 to Tampa Bay as of this writing.
Taylor Hall has seen another season marred by injury issues, but we may see him play again before 2015-16.
Hall told the Edmonton Journal that he’s hoping to play in the upcoming world hockey championships and may even return for the Edmonton Oilers before this season is over.
“Going to the world championship would be good for me because I haven’t played much hockey this year and I haven’t played too much good hockey as well,” Hall said on Monday. “If I get invited (to wear the maple leaf), I’ll accept and hopefully we win a gold.”
The Edmonton Journal pointed out that he’d likely be joined by teammates Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, which would be an added bonus to playing in the summer.
Playing in that tournament makes sense, but it’s hard not to at least make the devil’s advocate argument regarding suiting up for the Oilers again. Considering where Edmonton ranks in the standings, some might wonder why Hall would risk aggravating his “bone injury” … again. Hall himself has admitted that he’s rushed back from injuries before, after all.
Even his comments regarding skating again raise a red flag for worriers in the audience.
“I practiced hard today, maybe too hard,” Hall said. “I’ll probably have to get my conditioning back before I can play.”
Taking a cautious approach would probably be wise, but for a player who’s never played a full season and missed at least 20 games three times at age 23, it’s understandable that Hall is also a little anxious to shake off some rust.
On paper, even on a back-to-back, the Buffalo Sabres seem like a cakewalk for the Washington Capitals.
The Sabres don’t look like they’re just going to roll over for the Capitals on Monday night, however. As you can see, things got heated between Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and the Sabres early in the game.
Ovechkin ended up getting four minutes of penalty time versus just two for Mike Weber. Buffalo cashed in on the power play chance that ensued.
As of this writing, Buffalo leads the game 2-1. You can watch on NBCSN or via NBC Sports Live Extra.