If the Washington Capitals and the Buffalo Sabres meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs next spring, it’s starting to look like it will be one hell of a series.
The two teams have seen each other twice in the past week, with both games decided by one goal — a 5-4 shootout decision last Sunday that went in favor of the Caps — and a 2-1 win on Friday night that, too, went the way of Washington.
In truth, either game could have gone either way. Buffalo, despite its recent struggles, deserved better in each of these meetings.
Hockey can be a cruel mistress at times.
The Caps appeared to have a 2-0 lead later in the period.
Leading 1-0 in the second period, Evgeny Kuznetsov appeared to score but the play was waved off as a no-goal. The review confirmed same from the NHL’s Situation Room, but the video review seen by everyone else sure looked like the puck crossed the goal line.
You be the judge:
The official statement from the NHL was that the referee meant to blow his whistle after losing sight of it.
“The Referee may deem the play to be stopped slightly prior to the whistle actually being blown,” an email from the league read. “The fact that the puck may come loose or cross the goal line prior to the sound of the whistle has no bearing if the Referee has ruled that the play had been stopped prior to this happening.”
The play, then, was not reviewable and the call on the ice, which was no goal, stood.
That was good news for Buffalo, who ended up tying the game through Johan Larsson in the third.
It’s been a tough go as of late for the Sabres, who have lost two on the trot and seven of their past 10.
The game-winner came off the stick of Tom Wilson with seven minutes remaining in the third.
The goal was courtesy of a great forecheck from Kuznetsov, who caught Sabres goalie Carter Hutton out behind his net, stole the puck from him and passed to Wilson for the easy tap in.
For Wilson, it’s his 10th goal and 17th point in 15 games this season, showing that if he can stop the boneheaded hits and stay out of the penalty box, he can be the effective, productive player that warrants the kind of money the Caps gave him over the summer.
The Sabres have shown they can tangle with the league’s best, but they need to find that killer instinct they had earlier in the season.