Sabres fall to shorthanded Caps

Even with the Capital’s missing four key players (Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Samsonov, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Dmitry Orlov — due to COVID-protocol violations.), the Sabres could not pull off a shootout win Friday night.

Eric Staal scored on a giveaway at 12:33 in the first period. The goal, assisted by teammate Victor Olofsson, was his first as a Sabre and of the season.

Less than four minutes later, Nicklas Backstrom tied it up with a rebound from teammate Tom Wilson.

Washington took the lead in the second period — Goal scored by Nic Dowd assisted by John Carlson and Jakub Vrana at 4:14. With that assist, Carlson (376) passed Dale Hunter for the fifth-most assists in franchise history.

The second period quickly became a game of back and forth — at 10:43, Dylan Cozens score his first NHL goal unassisted, tying the score at 2.

“It’s a dream come true,” he said during the first intermission on MSG, according to the Sabres. “Obviously the first step is making it here and to finally get that first goal, it’s super exciting.”

At 10:49, there was some 4-4 hockey — Penalty to Tage Thompson 2 minutes for Hooking Jakub Vrana, Vrana went to the box as well for tripping Thompson. At 13:07, Vrana scored assisted by Zdeno Chara and T.J. Oshie.

The Sabres tied it up 42 seconds later. Riley Sheahan, Scored unassisted. Chara and Curtis Lazar got into it, no one was reprimanded.

The second period closed with both teams tied at 3. Rasmas  Dahlin sat for the final 6:21 of the second period after receiving a lot of heat for not covering two rebounds in front of Buffalo’s net.

After a sloppy third period, still tied at 3, the Sabres entered overtime overtime shorthanded but was able to kill it off.  Washington’s Tom Wilson, who suffered a lower body injury, did not return during the third and will be re-evaluated tomorrow, per the team. This brings up a lot of questions heading into Sunday’s rematch and the future of the Caps’ season.

Entering the shootout, Ullmark had a career 84% blocking on penalty shots, while this was the first for Caps goalie, Vitek Vanecek. After four rounds of a shootout, John Carlson took the win for the Caps. In his second consecutive start, Vanecek was a little all over the place but just pulled through to get the Capitals to victory. He stopped 24 of 27 shots.

This was Ullmark’s first game back since learning of his father’s passing Monday but that didn’t stop his performance. He made 29 saves on 32 shots. Carter Hutton did not travel with Buffalo due to an apparent head injury from a collision Tuesday in Philadelphia. Buffalo is now 1-3-1 and Washington earned their first home victory after 324 days of being absent from Capital One Arena, improving to 3-0-2.

According to the Sabres Public Relations — Eric Staal, Dylan Cozens and Riley Sheahan all scored their first goals as Sabres tonight. Buffalo has had three players score their debut goals in one game just one other time in franchise history: Oct. 6, 1982 vs. Quebec (Dave Andreychuk, Paul Cyr and Hannu Virta).

Kyle Okposo, who has been out with a lower body injury, is expected to be ready for Sunday’s game.

The Sabres will practice tomorrow afternoon and meet the Caps again, Sunday at 3 p.m. The match was originally scheduled for 7 p.m. but conflicted with the AFC Championship game in which the Buffalo Bills face the Kansas City Chiefs at 6:40 p.m.