Following a disappointing loss to the Florida Panthers, it was going to take a lot for the Buffalo Sabres to grab a win from the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Depth scoring. Special teams improvement. Zone responsibility. It sounds like a lost number from The Sound of Music, but in actuality, it’s a recipe for a Buffalo win. Unfortunately, the team was missing a few key ingredients.
The first period was a Buffalo Sabres first period. The team led the Caps in shots and did a decent job of controlling possession. They traded power plays, but neither team could put together a solid try.
Things opened up in the second period, and the Capitals would draw first blood...on the penalty kill. Despite the best attempts to slow a charging Chandler Stephenson(?!) scored his third of the year. Shorthanded. Roofed it on an unexpecting Carter Hutton, who could do no better than he did.
To answer this call, Buffalo subsequently gave up two nearly consecutive power plays. Thankfully, the Sabres were able to keep Washington off of the board, but it was becoming evident that it was wearing on the young Buffalo squad.
It’s tough to watch a team shot suppress the way Buffalo does and still feel like they are a step behind. The third period saw the Sabres draw a tie, when Johan Larsson potted his third of the season on the backhand. With 8:04 left in third, Buffalo was up in shots 31-19, but couldn’t find the back of the net to take the lead.
As the Caps breached 20 shots, Tom Wilson scored his tenth of the season on a broken play that involved Hutton putting himself too far out of position to make the save.
The Sabres poured it on for the remainder of the game, but Braden Holtby was the indisputable difference in the matchup. Despite 17 shots in the third period, Buffalo could not overcome the one-goal deficit.
A late power play allowed the Sabres to go six-on-four. Still, they couldn’t beat Holtby. In the post game press conference, coach Phil Housley pointed out the team had a poor shot selection. He indicated he’d like to see the team shoot low and generate more rebounds. This really does appear to be the difference in a lot of Buffalo losses. As a fan, it’s nice to see the Sabres in such serious contention for a playoff spot after being terrible for so long. As an analyst, it is frustrating to see them run into the same brick walls on a nightly basis. The team won’t have long to consider the loss as they return to Buffalo to face the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night.
Final: Capitals 2, Sabres 1
Shots on goal: Sabres 37 | Capitals 24
Sabres goal: Johan Larsson (1)
Capitals Goals: Chandler Stephenson (1), Tom Wilson (1)
Three stars of the game
- Braden Holtby (36 saves)
- Chandler Stephenson (1 SHG)
- Johan Larsson (1 G)