Fans left the First Niagara Center happy on Saturday night as the Buffalo Sabres dominated the Washington Capitals, defeating them by a score of 4-1.
Phil Varone opened the scoring just ten minutes into the first when Rasmus Ristolainen’s slap shot went off the pad of Capitals’ goaltender Braden Holtby directly to Varone’s stick, who had an empty net to slide the puck into. Varone, who is currently the leading scorer for the Rochester Americans, was called up by the Sabres on Saturday morning, and took little time to make an impact on the team.
The Sabres penalty kill played very well in the first period, stopping the Alexander Ovechkin-led Capitals’ power play on two separate occasions. The Sabres were even able to pick up a shorthanded goal, as Tim Schaller scored his first of the season on a breakaway after Washington defenseman Dmitry Orlov failed to corral a pass, increasing the Sabres lead to 2-0.
The Sabres were able to extend their lead midway through the second, as Evander Kane’s shot trickled past Holtby for Kane’s ninth of the season. This would be the end of Holtby’s night, as the Capitals would replace him with second year goaltender Philipp Grubauer.
After failing on their first two attempts, Buffalo’s power play was finally able to produce, as Cody Franson’s slapshot went directly over the left shoulder of Grubauer. Franson’s goal was assisted by Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian, who both picked up their second point of the night.
Marcus Johansson would cut the Sabres lead to three less than three minutes into the third period, but the Sabres would be able to hold on and pick up the victory. Schaller’s goal ended up being the game winner as the Sabres defeated the Washington Capitals by a score of 4-1.
Chad Johnson played one of his best games of the year, stopping 33 of Washington’s 34 shots. Johnson had many highlight reel saves throughout the game, posting a save percentage of .971. Although Johnson played a huge role in the Sabres victory, he gave the majority of the credit to his teammates, stating that the game was a “huge overall win for everybody.”
Buffalo’s penalty kill really shined tonight, shutting down Washington’s power play four times. The Capitals entered the game with the second highest power play percentage in the league, but the Sabres were able to keep the Caps power play off of the scoresheet.
Rasmus Ristolainen played nearly half of the game, racking up over 27 minutes of ice time. Ristolainen made the most out of his time on the ice, assisting on Varone’s goal as well as registering two hits and two blocked shots.
Buffalo will begin a two-game road trip on Monday night, starting with a game against the Arizona Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena.