Monday, December 05, 2016

A TWO-Point Night -- Game 24: Washington Capitals 3 - Buffalo Sabres 2 (OT)

The Washington Capitals looked for all the world like a six-pack of Charmin for most of their game against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night – squeezably soft.  But over the last 15 minutes, the Caps dug in, fought back, and finally pulled out a 3-2 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres.

Buffalo opened the scoring just before the six-minute mark when Zemgus Girgensons took a pass from Derek Grant just outside the Caps’ blue line, caught defenseman Matt Niskanen flat-footed, stepped around him and then darted to the net to lift a backhand over the left pad of goalie Braden Holtby. 

The Sabres carried that 1-0 lead into the second period, but Jay Beagle tied the game for the Caps just over five minutes into the period.  Beagle started and ended the play, sending the puck up the boards to Daniel Winnik at the right point, then darting to the net.  Winnik moved the puck across to Brooks Orpik at the top of the left wing circle, and Orpik threw it at the net where Beagle was waiting to redirect it past goalie Robin Lehner to make it 1-1, 5:23 into the period.

Ten minutes later, the Sabres had their one-goal lead back.  It was a turnover by Niskanen that started things, his attempted pass from below the goal line picked off by William Carrier, who fed Ryan O’Reilly in the low slot.  O’Reilly’s shot was stopped by Holtby, as was the rebound attempt from Kyle Okposo.  The second shot came back out to Okposo drifting across the slot, and he had an open net to shoot at, converting the chance to make it 2-1 at the 15:23 mark of the second period.

It looked as if the Sabres would nurse that one-goal lead through the third period, but with 6:18 left, Marcus Johansson made a new game of it.  With Evander Kane in the penalty box on a hooking call, Justin Williams won the ensuing faceoff to Lehner’s left back to John Carlson.  Carlson backed off a step and let fly with a shot that Johansson redirected inside Lehner’s glove to tie the contest.

That would be how regulation ended, leaving things to the 3-on-3 freestyle competition.   In the third minute, Johansson skated the puck down the middle and into the Sabres’ zone.  He left the puck for Evgeny Kuznetsov crossing behind him, and Kuznetsov found Dmitry Orlov at the top of the left wing circle.  Orlov faked a slap shot and sent the puck across to Johansson coming through the right wing circle.  The pass hit Johansson in stride, and his one-time slap shot beat Lehner cleanly over his left pad to give the Caps the 3-2 win.

Other stuff…

-- That was the Caps’ first win this season when trailing at the end of two periods.  They were 0-5-2 in such games coming into this contest.

-- OK…we’ll take credit for having Marcus Johansson as our “playerto ponder” in the prognosto.  The two-goal night was Johansson’s third this season and first since October 30th. It was his ninth career multi-goal game, fourth most on the club since his came into the league.

-- Jay Beagle scored a goal. The Caps win when Jay Beagle scores a goal.  They are now 27-1-5 in games in which he scores a goal over his career, 4-0-0 this season. 

-- At the other end, Alex Ovechkin had one shot on goal, that coming in the third period.  He has 15 shots on goal in his last five games (since the hat trick against St. Louis), which might not sound noteworthy, but for him it’s almost a drought.  He is now five games without a goal, his longest streak without a goal since he went five games without one in Games 62-66 last season.

-- The Caps were credited with 24 hits.  Defensemen had 16 of them, led by Taylor Chorney (five).

-- Lars Eller…minus-2, three shots on goal (no points), lost five of seven draws.  Not an inspiring night.

-- Tom Wilson…no shot attempts in 13 minutes and change…ditto.

-- Whatever his effectiveness, Dmitry Orlov was a whirling dervish on the ice tonight. Carrying the puck end-to-end, getting good looks at the net, playing decent defense for the most part.  An assist, plus-2, four shot attempts.  But that chance he had from in tight that rolled off his stick and went wide…gotta bury that.

-- Don’t lose sight of the fact that Braden Holtby stopped 31 of 33 shots and shut the door in the third period, turning away all nine shots he faced.  Given the Caps’ woes in the third periods of games, that was a big lift.

-- There is possession, and there is possession that means something.  The Caps won the 5-on-5 shot attempt battle, 52-49 (51.9 percent Corsi-for; numbers from, but lost the shots battle, 29-23 and the goal battle, 2-1.

In the end…

OK, the comeback was, for lack of a better term, gritty.  But let’s remember, this Sabres team came into the game with the worst scoring offense in the league (2.00 goals per game) and lived up to their average.  This wasn’t the 2010 Capitals the Caps were facing.  And, it could have been worse.  Buffalo had one goal disallowed (the dreaded “offside before the goal was scored” video) and another barely avoided with a pileup in the crease.  For 45 minutes, the Caps looked as if they were having a leisurely skate up the C&O Canal.  

It was Jay Beagle who served as something of an example, fighting for pucks, going to the net, winning faceoffs, doing the little things that this whole “will” part of “will over skill” is supposed to embody.  And give Marcus Johansson some credit for going against recent type and shooting the puck (and going to the net for a redirect).  Good things happen when pucks are on net.  Things to keep in mind as the Caps prepare to host the Boston Bruins on Wednesday.