Quick hits: Capitals 4, Sabres 1 - The Buffalo News

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Quick hits: Capitals 4, Sabres 1

The Sabres don't play Washington again during the regular season. That was about the only good news Friday.

The Capitals skated out of KeyBank Center with a 4-1 victory, the third time Washington has beaten Buffalo in two weeks. The Capitals won the previous games 3-1 and 3-2 in overtime. It is the Caps' first season sweep of the Sabres since 2012-13.

The loss slowed a quality run at home for Buffalo, which slipped to 4-2-1 in the last seven downtown.

Making it close: Kyle Okposo scored with 7:57 remaining, allowing the Sabres' power play to strike for the first time in five chances. A rebound of Rasmus Ristolainen's shot came to the front, where Okposo and Sam Reinhart were both waiting to make it 2-1. Okposo got to the puck first, giving him four goals and eight points in nine games.

Not for long: The Caps regained their two-goal lead just 2:17 later. John Carlson sent a laser high into the net with 5:40 to play for Washington's second power-play goal of the night.

Marcus Johansson sealed the game with an empty-net breakaway with 1:12 remaining.

Alone in front: The Capitals opened the scoring with 6:43 off the clock in the second period. With Buffalo defensemen Cody Franson and Dmitry Kulikov below the goal line, T.J. Oshie took a pass and cut alone to the net to beat Robin Lehner.

Buffalo is 2-10-1 when the opponent scores first.

Souvenir: Washington took advantage of the Sabres’ slumping penalty-kill unit to make it 2-0 with 7:21 left in the second. Evgeny Kuznetsov skated by Jake McCabe and around a sliding Franson to get near the Buffalo net. He fed Jakub Vrana for a quick tap-in, and the Capitals celebrated Vrana’s first NHL goal in his fifth game.

The Sabres have given up a power-play goal in nine of the past 12 games.

No dice: Jack Eichel and Franson worked a give-and-go in the Capitals’ zone late in the second, with Franson setting up the center for an open-net chance. Eichel, who was straddling the goal line, fired into goalie Philipp Grubauer instead of the cage.

Scoreless first: Lehner made 11 saves and Grubauer had eight to send the teams into the first intermission in a 0-0 tie. Lehner had the best stop of the period, getting his glove on Tom Wilson’s wide-open shot from the top of the crease. Lehner also got his pad on a blast from Ovechkin, who had a game-high four shots in the period.

Anger: The Sabres' Marcus Foligno charged at Kuznetsov with 1:50 gone in the third period after the Washington forward swept his leg from behind to earn an interference penalty. The Capitals' bench called for a penalty on Foligno after he appeared to give Kuznetsov a head butt.

Defensive changes: Kulikov (back) and Gorges (foot) played after missing 13 and three games, respectively. The first pairing of McCabe and Rasmus Ristolainen remained intact. Kulikov skated with Franson, while Gorges partnered with Justin Falk.

With six healthy defensemen, the Sabres were forced to send Brendan Guhle back to juniors. He was promoted on an emergency recall.

Deslauriers returns: Left wing Nicolas Deslauriers, who suffered a knee injury Oct. 29, returned after missing 19 games. He took the lineup spot of center Derek Grant, who was ill.

The lines featured Ryan O’Reilly in the middle of left wing William Carrier and right wing  Okposo; Eichel centering for Evander Kane and Reinhart; Johan Larsson between Foligno and Brian Gionta; and Zemgus Girgensons in the middle of Deslauriers and Matt Moulson.

Hole in the middle: Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom played just 3:02 in the first period and didn’t appear in the final 8:01 after needing to be “evaluated,” according to the team. He returned for the second.

Next: After essentially playing every other day for six weeks, the Sabres have hit a lull in their schedule. They had two days off before the visit by the Caps, and they have three days off before the Los Angeles Kings come to town Tuesday. Buffalo will avoid the rink Saturday and return to practice Sunday.

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