It was another strange night for the Washington Capitals in Buffalo, as the team found itself shorthanded and going with 11 forwards and seven defensemen for the second consecutive game with Nic Dowd, T.J. Oshie and Trevor van Riemsdyk out again, along with Johan Larsson. Despite facing the same circumstances from Tuesday’s game, the Capitals were able to put on a stronger performance, and it paid off.
Despite a couple of weird bounces and chaotic scrambles — and arguably one of the strangest sequences of the year — Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, along with Anthony Mantha and Nick Jensen, helped Washington leave KeyBank Center with a 4-3 shootout victory to end a two-game slide.
Here are all the takeaways from the win:
Second Line Stays Hot As Capitals Start Strong
Washington got off to a strong start against Buffalo, keeping the pressure up as they limited the Sabres to just four shots while piling on 11 in the opening frame. It ultimately paid off, as Mantha got the Capitals on the board with his seventh goal of the season.
Some good stuff 😮💨 pic.twitter.com/FfxVKARYSx
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 25, 2022
The 27-year-old now has four goals and three assists in 11 games since drawing back into the lineup and now has 13 points in 21 games this year, which would put him on pace for 51 points in a normal 82-game campaign.
Nicklas Backstrom also picked up his 19th helper of the season and would be on pace for 60 points in a full year. In addition, Tom Wilson picked up his 26th assist and 45th point of the year, setting new career highs in both categories.
Jeff Skinner would tie the game late in the first on a sneaky backhander, but ultimately, the opening period proved promising for Washington, who had the advantage in quality scoring chances and shots.
Jensen, Ovechkin Help Capitals Stay Float As Team Falters In Second
Despite a strong start, Washington did step off the gas a bit in the second period. Jensen potted his fifth goal of the season — also establishing a new career-high — to make it 2-1, but soon after, the Sabres would respond and tilt the ice in their favor.
Buffalo started to turn up the pressure, making it up to 11 shots after just four through the first 20. Jeff Skinner picked up his second of the game and 26th of the season just over halfway into the second to make it 2-2. Just 2:32 minutes later, Tage Thompson would strike on a great passing play to extend his point streak to four games and give the Sabres the lead. Head coach Peter Laviolette called a timeout after that, and it appeared to ignite a spark.
The Capitals got back the jump in their step and recaptured that pressure and grit they played with to start the night. It paid off, as a clean face-off win from Kuznetsov helped Ovechkin tie the game on a rocket of a shot to make it 3-3 heading into the third.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) March 26, 2022
Ovechkin’s goal was his 41st of the season and his ninth goal in his last 11 games. He is now up to 771 career tallies and is just 29 away from 800, 31 shy of passing Gordie Howe for second of all-time and 124 away from breaking the all-time NHL goals record that belongs to Wayne Gretzky. Meanwhile, Kuznetsov also dished his 42nd helper of the season on the goal to extend his point streak to 11 games.
Ovechkin, Kuznetsov Provide Shootout Heroics After Chaotic Third, OT
Absolute chaos ensued in the third, as both teams exchanged opportunities but ultimately couldn’t find twine and ended up going to overtime. Ultimately, the game ended up going to a shootout after both teams got wild chances.
After Tage Thompson struck first for Buffalo in the shootout and Nicklas Backstrom and Casey Mittlestadt missed, Evgeny Kuznetsov pulled off one of the greatest shootout moves yet, coming to almost a complete stop but keeping a forward motion and deking over 10 times before wiring a quick shot past Dustin Tokarski to even the skills competition.
Evgeny Kuznetsov with one of the slowest shootout goals ever pic.twitter.com/qZ2TZsyagB
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) March 26, 2022
Then, after Alex Tuch couldn’t convert in Rd. 3, Ovechkin net the shootout winner on a great backhander. It marked Ovechkin’s second shootout winner in four games, his 37th career SO goal and 16th career SO winner.
NEVER A DOUBT
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) March 26, 2022
Sammi’s Top Shelf Takes
- It wasn’t the best night to start Ilya Samsonov in net in his first game since the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. He surrendered three goals on the first 11 shots against and wasn’t tracking the puck that well. However, he did recover, coming up with quite a couple of big saves. He got the win with 20 saves on 23 shots in regulation at OT (.870 save percentage). The 25-year-old also stopped two of three shots in the shootout (save percentage).
- Kuznetsov had a great night in the face-off dot, winning eight of 11 draws (73 percent). Lars Eller was also strong, going 11-for-17 (65 percent).
- In his second game back with the Capitals, Marcus Johansson had two shots, one hit and one block through 15:39 minutes.
- John Carlson led all skaters with 25:36 minutes and had a team-leading six shots and three blocks over that span.
- Dmitry Orlov and Wilson were tied for the team lead in hits (4). Orlov also had a helper on Jensen’s goal and is averaging .47 points per game this season, a new career-high.
- Michal Kempny played just five shifts, skating 3:17 minutes in total and taking one penalty, his third in two games. Matt Irwin finished the night with three shots, two hits and two blocks through 10:10 minutes (13 shifts).