The Sabres fell in their rematch with Washington 5-2 on Wednesday night at the Verizon Center.
The Sabres in the first came out forcing the play and looked confident. Off the opening draw, Rasmus Ristolainen flattened Alex Ovechkin, causing him to lose his cool, retaliating 20 seconds later and drawing a roughing penalty. Buffalo had a good power play and while they didn’t score then, the Sabres did score on a beautiful feed by Jack Eichel to Brian Gionta on the right side of Braden Holtby a little over five minutes later.
Ennis took a bad tripping penalty midway through the first, but Chad Johnson made some nice stops and controlled any rebounds to maintain the Sabres lead. Near the end of the period, Eichel took a great backhanded shot that Holtby stopped. After the play Zach Bogosian did a nice job stepping up when Tom Wilson mugged Brian Gionta behind the net.
The Sabres lacked pressure in the second period, getting trapped a lot in their own end. Johnson kept the score even, making two huge saves on Justin Williams during another Capitals power play. Ovechkin crushed Tyler Ennis from behind into the boards, sending him to the dressing room shortly after. Ennis did not return. Washington converted on their next power play chance with Justin Williams scoring in front after Johnson got caught behind the net.
Later in the third, Bogosian saved a goal after the puck was trickling to the goal line, but it didn’t matter. Ovechkin scored shortly after in what would be a big period for Washington.
The Sabres held with Washington for the first two periods pretty well, but the Capitals showed in the third why they are the best team in the East. They were relentless with pressure and the pace they played led to a few Sabre mistakes that ended up in their own end.
Jack Eichel: I think this is the third time since the Christmas break I have put him here, but he was the best Sabre by a mile. He had two gorgeous assists and six shots tonight. His vision was impressive and he showed some nice leadership on the ice by not giving up until the game ended.
Zemgus Girgensons: He looked energized on Eichel’s line and finished with a goal and assist. I liked his drive to the net and he applied good pressure throughout the game into the Washington zone. Hopefully he builds off this game for the rest of the season.
Zach Bogosian: It was nice to see his response when Tom Wilson mugged Gionta, but his defensive play was dreadful. He let a lot of Washington skaters fall behind him and lacked in physical play. The Sabres need more from him given what they traded.
Evander Kane: His penalties were lazy tonight and cost the Sabres goal. His work ethic is typically unquestioned, but he seemed to miss finishing plays tonight and you expect better discipline from a more experienced player like Kane.
The Sabres are back in action tomorrow against the Islanders at home for “Tux and Pucks” night celebrating New Years Eve. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:05 p.m.