WASHINGTON – The power play created chances but no goals, and goals are what the power play needs. Desperately.
The broken record about the power play continues because the Buffalo Sabres can’t seem to find a power-play goal to save their lives.
Wednesday night the trend continued. The Sabres went 0 for 4 on the power play while the Washington Capitals scored the game-winner on the man-advantage in a 5-2 win at the Verizon Center.
With the game tied, 2-2, in the third period the teams exchanged a series of penalties, giving the Sabres a 4-on-3 advantage. They had numerous chances to score.
When the Caps responded minutes later with their own power-play goal to take a 3-2 lead, well that sapped most of the remaining mojo right out of the Sabres.
“The power play is the next play always… whether you’ve scored, you’re at 25 percent or you’re at zero percent, it’s always about the next time over the boards, the next opportunity,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “We had the opportunity tonight with the 4 on 3 and didn’t capitalize. Am I concerned about that? That was our opportunity.”
While that was the opportunity on Wednesday, the opportunity has now been squandered in seven straight games. That’s how long the Sabres have gone without a power-play goal, putting them on an 0 for 21 streak.
“You want your power play to be successful,” Jack Eichel said. “I think we’ve gotten chances. At the end of the day we need to bear down and finish it. It’s been good for us for a while this year and it’s been a weapon and it’s also hurt us at times. I think we just need to get more consistent with it.”
While the Sabres wasted their power-play chances, the Capitals gained momentum in the third.
Buffalo had taken leads of 1-0 and 2-1 on goals by the newly formed line with Eichel, Brian Gionta and Zemgus Girgensons. With Chad Johnson making some spectacular saves, the Sabres were playing a fairly solid road game.
Then it all unraveled in the third.
Alex Ovechkin tied the game on the first shift of the third. Then came the power-play goal from Marcus Johansson.
“I think we sagged after the power-play goal,” Bylsma said. “Again we had opportunity. They get that power play and they score I thought we sagged a bit after that.”
The sag proved costly because just 1:24 later Andre Burakovsky scored to give the Caps a comfy 4-2 lead.
The Caps came at the Sabres hard and the Sabres blinked as they got away from their game plan and failed to recover. They threw 43 shots at Johnson, including 15 in the third.
“I thought we played well,” Gionta said of the first 40 minutes with the Sabres taking the 2-1 lead. “We challenged their D, got it in deep worked it down low, got some second and third opportunities in front of the net. Did what we wanted to do. Then just third wasn’t where we needed to be.
“They came hard but … when they’re doing that we’ve got to continue to stick with what was working, making their D go back. That was working for us all night.”
Gionta’s line with Girgensons and Eichel was also working all night. The trio combined for the two goals and 11 of the team’s 27 shots. Eichel alone had six shots.
The goals for Gionta and Girgensons snapped scoring droughts of eight and 11 games, respectively.
“I think we just wanted to keep the game simple,” Eichel said of finding instant chemistry with his new linemates. “Gussy and Gio both work really hard and I think we put pucks behind them, used our speed and came at them in waves. … It was rewarding for us to be able to score two but at the end of the day it wasn’t enough. … We had our power play opportunities and we didn’t capitalize on those. That was the difference in the game.”