The Buffalo Sabres needed to get over the loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a hurry. They also needed to do it with nine starters out of the lineup due to injury. They did just that as they responded to a 5-1 loss with a 5-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.
Joining the plethora of rookies in the Buffalo lineup were Paul Szczechura and Brayden McNabb. Szczechura was filling in for Drew Stafford who was out with a lower body injury. McNabb took the spot of Robyn Regehr who was out with an upper body injury.
Szczechura made his presence known midway through the first period. Strong forechecking forced Dennis Wideman coughed up the puck and Luke Adam buried it for his 7th of the season. Szczechura was credited with the only assist.
Buffalo took a 2-0 lead before the end of the first period when Jason Pominville knocked a Thomas Vanek shot down and into the net. It was Vanek’s 10th point in his last 10 games. Christian Ehrhoff was credited with the other apple on the goal.
Ehrhoff was involved with the first goal of the second period. Jason Chimera go loose on a breakaway and Ehrhoff dove to knock the puck away. He also tripped Chimera who was awarded a penalty shot. He buried it and cut the Sabres lead to one goal.
That was as close as Washington would come as Buffalo came roaring back on the next shift. 2009 1st Rounder Zack Kassian fired a shot from the wing on the rush that handcuffed Caps netminder Thomas Vokoun for his first NHL goal. Sekera and Roy were credited with assists.
Adam potted his second goal of the game and 8th of the season when he walked out from behind the net and fired a shot past the bewildered Vokoun. Alexander Ovechkin was the defender who allowed Adam the unimpeded shot. Szczechura and Ville Leino assisted on the play.
Buffalo’s final goal came short handed. Nathan Gerbe chipped the puck past a flat-footed Ovechkin to Jochen Hecht who streaked in on goal and buried the shorthanded chance to finish off the Capitals who gave an overall listless performance.
Buffalo’s game was anything but. After failing physically in Columbus they stepped up at home. Brayden McNabb led the way in a 6-hit effort including a big open ice step up in the first period. Corey Tropp, Zack Kassian and Andrej Sekera also threw their weight around in a game that could have featured at least 5 Carruba Collisions.
Buffalo’s veteran defenders also showed improvement. Sekera and Ehrhoff who have struggled recently put together solid game with plenty of ice time. Jordan Leopold continued his solid play and Marc-Andre Gragnani looked to improve as well. Buffalo only allowed 25 shots on goal. Jhonas Enroth stopped 24 of them.
Buffalo returns to action Tuesday, November 29th against the lowly New York Islanders. Faceoff is set for 7 p.m. Eastern from First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY.