WASHINGTON – Anders Nilsson keeps impressing. It didn't matter Saturday.
Nilsson stopped 29 shots, but Buffalo's goaltender would have needed to be perfect for the Sabres to beat Washington. Buffalo again found the net just once and suffered a 3-1 loss in Verizon Center. It was the Sabres' first regulation loss in four games.
“He kept us in the game,” Sabres right wing Kyle Okposo said of Nilsson. “He made some saves that it didn’t look he had any business making.”
The run of little to no offense continued. Buffalo has scored two goals or fewer in 12 of the last 13 games.
The start was the first for Nilsson since he turned aside 46 shots and all three during the shootout of last Saturday's 2-1 victory over Pittsburgh.
In front again: The Capitals scored the opening goal for the 17th time in their 20 games, needing just 5:08 to put the Sabres in a 1-0 hole. A pass to the front for Washington’s Brett Connolly couldn’t connect, but the loose puck went to Daniel Winnik at the right side of the net. He quickly buried it before Nilsson could get over.
Big saves: Nilsson was the busier of the two goalies during the opening period as Washington outshot Buffalo, 13-6. Nilsson had to be better, too. The Caps had several impressive scoring chances, with Zachary Sanford topping the list.
Sanford sped down the left side of the Sabres’ zone and cut to the middle, slipping the puck between the legs of defenseman Cody Franson. Sanford broke in alone for a chance at his first NHL goal, but Nilsson robbed the rookie with a glove save with 5:56 to play.
Just before the goal by Winnik, Nilsson slid across to rob Justin Williams.
Another tough bounce: The Capitals opened a 2-0 lead during the second period on another broken play. Washington entered the Sabres’ zone on a three-on-two, with Williams attempting to pass to the left side. Defenseman Josh Gorges kicked the puck away, but it went right to Marcus Johansson. With nothing between him and Nilsson, the winger went high to the blocker side with 6:35 left in the period.
Cheering section: There are usually plenty of Sabres fans in Washington. Sam Reinhart finally allowed them to make some noise with 10:02 to play. Kyle Okposo controlled the puck in the Caps' zone before feeding Reinhart, and the winger beat Philipp Grubauer with a shot from the left circle to make it 2-1.
Power shortage: The Sabres, who entered the game with the ninth-ranked power play, failed to connect on four chances. They had three power plays during the third period, including 1:29 of carryover time after intermission.
Buffalo's best and final chance came when Andre Burakovsky went off for delay of game with 7:53 to go. Ryan O'Reilly took advantage of a Washington player with a broken stick to get a clear shot, but Grubauer turned him away to keep it 2-1.
How it's done: The Capitals got a power play with 4:20 to go, and they connected to put the Sabres away. Nilsson stopped a blast by Alex Ovechkin, but Brett Connolly buried the rebound with 3:55 left to make it 3-1.
Chances: The Sabres managed to get 12 shots on Grubauer during the second period. His best save came on a deflection by William Carrier. Washington had a 25-18 shot lead through 40 minutes.
Line tinkering: Coach Dan Bylsma tweaked the Sabres’ lines, most notably moving Sam Reinhart back to right wing. Ryan O’Reilly skated in the middle of left wing Marcus Foligno and right wing Kyle Okposo. Johan Larsson centered for left wing Evander Kane and captain Brian Gionta. Cal O’Reilly was in the middle of William Carrier and Reinhart. Derek Grant centered for Zemgus Girgensons and Matt Moulson.
Cole Schneider was a healthy scratch for the second straight game and could be sent to Rochester this weekend.
Anthem touches: Capitals fans salute two local teams during the national anthem. They shout “red” for the rockets’ glare in a nod to the Caps. They yell “O’s” for the star-spangled banner waving in homage to the Baltimore Orioles.
Next: The Sabres will take Saturday off before returning to practice Sunday. They will play on the road Tuesday in Ottawa, their third game of the month against the Senators. They are 1-0-1. After that, Buffalo will play six of its next seven at home. The run starts Thursday when the New York Rangers visit KeyBank Center.