Not many people saw this one coming.
The Caps came into First Niagara Center Saturday night on a five-game winning streak. They had scored 22 goals in their last five games and Braden Holtby, arguably the league’s hottest goaltender, hadn’t lost in regulation since November 10.
That’s why this game left Sabres fans feeling so good after their team skated away with a dominant 4-1 win. The team soaked in the well-deserved applause at center ice after the final horn and waved their sticks in the air.
They scored at even strength, shorthanded and on the power play.
Call-up Phil Varone knocked in a rebound to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead midway through the first period. The second goal, a shortie by Schaller was a beauty. He intercepted a pass and took off on a breakaway, netting what proved to be the eventual game-winner. Evander Kane’s goal midway through the second period put Buffalo up 3-0 and chased Holtby to the bench. Soon thereafter, Cody Franson’s snapshot lit the lamp behind Philip Grubauer, a power play goal that put the Sabres up 4-0 after two.
Marcus Johansson netted the Caps’ only goal in the third, but it was too little too late.
Chad Johnson had a spectacular performance in net, earning first star honors by stopping 33 of 34 shots. He stopped Ovechkin a few times, flashing leather with cat-like reflexes.
“I just tried to square up to him, try and make a reaction save. He’s so quick with his release, I knew I had to be there and just try and make sure I was in position.” – Chad Johnson
Johnson improved to 11-12-2 with a .919 save percentage and 2.41 goals-against average while tying a career high with his 27th appearance.
“Tonight was a good team effort,” Bogosian said. “All four lines were buzzing. Our defense was involved, and Johnny played a great game. Anytime you get everyone involved like that and control the play that way, it’s a lot more fun.”
The Sabres have won three of their last four games and play in Arizona Monday night. Puck drop is scheduled for 9:05 p.m.