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).
The Buffalo Sabres’ current winless skid hit five games with a shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Wednesday night.
Buffalo is now 3-17-3 in their last 23 road games and concluded its most recent road trip with just one of a possible 10 points (0-4-1).
The Sabres (19-42-6) have a have a three-point cushion on the Edmonton Oilers (18-38-11) for the last spot in the league.
Despite the aforementioned numbers, Sabres’ head coach Ted Nolan scoffed at the notion his club has nothing to play for with 15 games remaining on the 2014-15 schedule.
“I beg to differ, these guys have a lot to play for,” Nolan said following the Sabres’ 4-3 shootout loss. “These guys are playing for their livelihoods and they’re playing to get a job in the National Hockey League and sustain that.
“There’s all kinds of kids playing junior hockey and in Europe and all over North America trying to steal these jobs on you, so if you don’t stay on top of your game, you won’t keep them very long.”
Nolan has been particularly happy with the way his veterans have responded to the situation this season.
The line of Tyler Ennis and Matt Moulson and Johan Larsson accounted for three goals and nine points Wednesday.
“That’s why I have a lot of respect for Tyler Ennis and Matty Moulson and [Brian] Gionta,” said Nolan. “They have kids from the American Hockey League coming up here and they’re not complaining. They’re playing as hard as they can and those young kids are benefitting from it.”
Buffalo returns to action Saturday night when they play host to the New York Rangers.
The Buffalo Sabres announced Friday morning that they’ve assigned forward Johan Larsson to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League.
Larsson was injured during the first period of the Sabres’ 3-2 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs during preseason action on Sept. 29 and has been recovering from an upper body injury ever since.
Larsson, Minnesota’s second-round pick in 2010 (56th overall), split last season between the Americans and the Sabres.
In 28 games with Buffalo last season, Larsson had four assists and 19 penalty minutes.
The 22-year-old, who was acquired by the Sabres in the Jason Pominville trade in April 2013, had 15 goals and 41 points in 51 games in 2013-14.