Heading into the nation’s capital on Saturday night, the Buffalo Sabres were looking to continue their ascent up the Eastern Conference standings.
Unfortunately, Buffalo fell to the defending Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals in a shootout.
On the surface, a loss is never ideal but when digging a little deeper, this is precisely the game that many wanted to see from the Sabres.
Buffalo struck first – early on – thanks to a very hot Jack Eichel in the right place, at the right time.
A shot close from Rasmus Dahlin found its way on net, immediately tipped by Sam Reinhart. The rebound found its way directly to Eichel’s stick and the rest is history.
Eichel power play goal— Ben Mathewson (@Ben_Mathewson) December 16, 2018
1-0 Buffalo pic.twitter.com/JwhYYaQjG7
Eichel’s 11th goal of the season, at 2:41 of the first, put Buffalo up 1-0.
The lead would be short-lived for the Sabres though.
Less than a minute later, Brett Connolly would put home his 7th of the season to tie the game at 1, after Carter Hutton got himself caught up behind his own net.
Washington would keep their momentum moving forward midway through the first, when they took a 2-1 lead on Jakub Vrana’s 10th goal of the season.
Despite falling behind after one period, the Sabres were not deterred. The team picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and moved forward into the second period.
It was again Jack Eichel who put the team on his back early in the second period.
Eichel’s bar-down goal rebounded out in such a way that the puck still appeared to be in play. It was strange that he was celebrating but we quickly found out why he was thrilled.
Unreal goal by Jack Eichel pic.twitter.com/YELbA1JgCy— Ben Mathewson (@Ben_Mathewson) December 16, 2018
Buffalo’s second goal of the game goes in the books as Eichel’s 12th goal of the season. The power play goal came at 2:25 of the second period.
This goal pushes a white-hot Eichel to seven goals scored in his last five games.
Less than five minutes later, the Sabres would re-assert themselves, again on the power play.
An attempted pass from Reinhart turned into a deflected shot attempt from Skinner. Bad news for Washington was that the shot pinballed over to the stick of a trailing Rasmus Dahlin.
Without hesitation, Dahlin popped the shot into the net.
Dahlin power play goal— Ben Mathewson (@Ben_Mathewson) December 16, 2018
3-2 Buffalo pic.twitter.com/n8X5cxZ3pZ
Dahlin’s third goal of the season, at 7:21 of the second period, pushed Buffalo’s lead to 3-2.
This goal also pushed Dahlin to his first career three point game of his young NHL career.
Washington would answer back later in the third period when Alexander Ovechkin put home his 29th of the season, at 13:46 of the second period.
Impressively enough, this goal pushed Ovechkin’s point streak to a career-high 14 games. You can rarely stop Ovechkin, you only hope to contain him.
The game played relatively normal throughout the third period and into overtime.
Of note, a very late Sam Reinhart chance in the third period, with a net agape, will likely give him trouble sleeping for a few nights.
Holy Glen Wesley pic.twitter.com/MIvfsaoKng— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) December 16, 2018
Heading into the shootout, hope was high that the Sabres would be able to pull off another big victory.
Unfortunately, the Capitals stars - Backstrom and Ovechkin - had other plans.
Buffalo would lose the shootout 2-1 and ultimately the game, 4-3.
Mittelstadt scored the only shootout goal for the Sabres.
On the bright side, Buffalo was able to collect a big point against a very tough Eastern Conference foe. At the end of the day, the job is collecting points.
Buffalo has a quick turnaround, with a game against the Boston Bruins coming up on Sunday afternoon at 5 PM.
With this loss, Buffalo’s record runs to 19-9-5 with 43 points.
Notes: Defenseman Lawrence Pilut missed the game with a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day. Defenseman Nathan Beaulieu left the game in the second period and did not return - no update was available post game.
Final: Capitals 4, Sabres 3 (SO)
Shots on Goal: Capitals 38 | Sabres 29
Sabres Goal Scorers: Jack Eichel (11, 12), Rasmus Dahlin (3)
Capitals Goal Scorers: Brett Connolly (7), Jakub Vrana (10), Alex Ovechkin (29)
Three Stars of the Game
1. Alex Ovechkin (1 G, GW SO goal)
2. Jack Eichel (1 G)
3. Jakub Vrana (1 G)