Captain Jack Eichel scored the only shootout goal while Linus Ullmark made some key saves to bring the Sabres the two-point victory Sunday evening.
Kyle Okposo and Casey Mittelstadt made their season debuts — Okposo was out with for the first five games following a lower-body injury during January 9th scrimmage. Mittelstadt recalled from taxi squad to replace Tage Thompson, trading places with rookie Dylan Cozens. Mittelstadt last played NHL Dec 10, 2029 after being sent down to Rochester Amerks. Linus Ullmark started in net.
“Just in the plan,” coach Ralph Krueger said. “We had mentioned preseason that we need to keep the taxi-squad players active and we need to watch the load on some of the other players. Dylan is one of them, so he has an opportunity to take a breath and watch the game.”
The Capitals brought in rookie Conner McMichael (their 2029 first round pick, 25th overall), and Trevor van Riemsdyk also made his Washington debut, replacing Nick Jensen. Vitek Vanecek started in goal once again. Tom Wilson remained out after a lower body injury during Friday night’s match.
“This is what you work for your whole life,” McMichael, who had one shot on goal in 9:54 of ice time, said following the game. “Obviously, a little bit of nerves, but I thought I had a good game.”
Washington started off scoring first at 6:58 into the first. Goal scored by Justin Schultz, his first with the team, following Garnet Hathaway’s hit on Taylor Hall in offensive zone.
First goal as a Cap for Schultzy! pic.twitter.com/JkPFcunSvf— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 24, 2021
Following in the footsteps of Friday’s game, nothing but an exciting second period. It started off scoreless until the Sabres tied it up at one at 10:07 with a Power Play Goal Scored by Colin Miller, his first of the season, (assisted by Casey Mittelstadt and Rasmus Ristolainen). The Caps took back the lead at 11:51 with a Power Play Goal Scored by T.J. Oshie, assisted by Justin Schultz and Nicklas Backstrom. It wasn’t long until the Sabres came back to tie at it at two — 13:04 Power Play Goal Scored by Victor Olofsson, assisted by Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel.
It almost seemed like a déjà vu in the third period, as Buffalo scored, again on the powerplay — Scored by Eric Staal assisted by Colin Miller and Rasmus Ristolainen. Washington tied it up at 3, 9:28 Power Play Goal Scored by Nicklas Backstrom assisted by John Carlson and Jakub Vrana. Eichel had a beautiful drag but was stopped by Vanecek.
What a move by Jack Eichel in OT for the chance. pic.twitter.com/Y5otwbwZxt— Here's Your Replay ⬇️ (@HeresYourReplay) January 24, 2021
After a high intensity overtime was not enough to end the despute, for the second consecutive game both teams headed to a shootout. Eichel, finally, scored in the first round and Ullmark, acting like the brick wall he was, earns his first win of the season.
Both goalies had an incredible game — Vanecek made a career-high 45 saves, while Ullmark stopped 28 shots during regulation and overtime play, then an additional three in the shootout. The Sabres (2-3-1) outshot the Capitals (3-0-3) 48-31.
“[Ullmark] stepped up big,” said Eichel postgame. “He made some key saves. Obviously an emotional week for him, so it’s good to see him get a win.”
Washington won the first three matches this season against the Sabres, and nine straight home games against them since March 3, 2015 — the longest active streak in the NHL against one opponent.
“We definitely deserved one win out of these four,” coach Ralph Krueger said. “It wasn’t necessarily what I would call a solid or pretty win, but it was an extremely important one, and we had to dig down a few times again after disappointment and found a way— which it could be we come out of this stronger than if this win today would’ve been an easy one.”
The Sabres return to Buffalo to take on the New York Rangers Tuesday night at 7 p.m.