33 shots. On 33 separate occasions, the Buffalo Sabres were able to shoot the puck at Washington Capitals‘ goaltender Philipp Grubauer Friday evening at the Verizon Center. As has become commonplace this season, the Sabres were only able to put one goal past the opposition and, despite a strong outing from Anders Nilsson, lost by a score of 3-1.
Daniel Winnik opened the scoring for the Capitals early on in the first period, shooting the puck past Nilsson from a weird angle to give Washington the early lead. The Sabres got themselves in a hole early, and unfortunately were never able to climb out.
“He made some saves that it didn’t look he had any business making.” – Kyle Okposo talking about Anders Nilsson
The Capitals were able to double their lead with just over six minutes remaining in the second frame. Former Conn Smythe Trophy recipient Justin Williams attempted to pass the puck across the slot to Capitals’ center Nicklas Backstrom, but his pass was stopped by Sabres’ defenseman Josh Gorges. The Sabres’ assistant captain kicked directly to Washington forward Marcus Johansson and he ripped one past Nilsson’s blocker to give the Caps the 2-0 lead.
Midway through the third period, Sam Reinhart cut the Capitals’ lead in half with his fourth goal of the season. Reinhart’s goal was assisted by Kyle Okposo and Cody Franson, giving Okposo his team-leading 13th point of the year. Per usual, Buffalo’s third period goal would prove to be their only goal of the game.
Any hopes of a Buffalo comeback were crushed with just under four minutes to go in the game, when Brett Connolly restored the Capitals’ two goal lead on the power play. Connolly, who already had an assist in the game, shot the puck into a wide open net after Nilsson was out of position following a pad save. Connolly’s goal would prove to be the dagger, as the Capitals defeated the Sabres by a score of 3-1.
“I’m trying to put the puck in the net. It’s frustrating. Scoring goals again is the problem, that’s my job, there’s some areas I need to improve on.” –Ryan O’Reilly
What has been Buffalo’s biggest problem all season proved to be their biggest problem on Friday evening – the team can’t seem to score. Despite outshooting Washington, Buffalo was only able to put one lone goal past Capitals’ goaltender Philipp Grubauer, and as Sabres’ fans have learned throughout the season, the team isn’t going to win many games while scoring only one goal a game.
Despite letting in three goals, the standout of the game for Buffalo was, without a doubt, Nilsson. Acquired in the offseason by the New York Islanders, Nilsson continues to impress in his sporadic appearances, continually giving the Sabres a chance to win. He made many outstanding saves throughout the game and stopped 29 out of the 32 shots he faced.
Buffalo’s loss Friday evening in Washington is their second in a row, a streak the team will look to snap Tuesday night in Ottawa when they take on the Senators in the Canadian Tire Centre.