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Kotalik caps comeback Sabres deep-six Washington despite giving up three killer goals Sabres vs. Capitals: Buffalo's win streak hits seven games

WASHINGTON -- Hockey coaches bemoan how a goal against in the final minute of a period can be a real killer.

The Buffalo Sabres gave up three such killers Tuesday night but it wasn't enough to snuff out the league's hottest team.

The Washington Capitals scored two goals in the last minute of the first period and another with five seconds left in the second, but the Sabres wouldn't succumb. Buffalo overcame a two-goal deficit in the second period and netted three goals in the third to post a 6-4 white-knuckle victory in the Verizon Center.

The Sabres have won a season-best seven straight games and remain two points behind Northeast Division-leading Ottawa. Buffalo has scored six or more goals in four straight games.

"It's not something we look forward to, going down two goals, but that happened three times on the road the last couple of weeks," co-captain Daniel Briere said. "To win those games is pretty impressive."

Derek Roy's power-play goal tied the game with 6:53 left in the third period, and Ales Kotalik tallied the winner with 1:43 remaining, his goal caroming off a defenseman's skate. Briere scored two goals 2:06 apart in the second period. Tim Connolly had a goal and one assist, and Maxim Afinogenov scored into an empty net in the game's final minute.

"We're always able to find a way to win," Kotalik said. "That's the confidence. You know you can do it and you know you will do it."

Washington scored twice against struggling Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller in the last minute of the first period -- in a span of eight seconds, no less -- and once more with 4.9 seconds left on the clock in the second.

Miller, who entered the game with a 3.66 goals-against average and an .873 save percentage in five post-Olympic starts, has managed to go 4-1 since the break. He made 29 saves.

"He had a tough two periods but young goalies have to battle through adversity," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said of Miller. "As we go down the stretch this is pressure you have to learn to deal with."

Capitals winger Ben Clymer scored his second goal in the waning moments of the second period to put his team back in front.

Clymer's first goal tied the game in the first period before show-stopping rookie Alex Ovechkin and Jeff Halpern scored eight seconds apart.

"We do a good job of not panicking," Miller said. "When we feel a little bit off, we're able to dial it back in."

Buffalo took the lead just 5:31 in on Connolly's 11th goal. Defenseman Teppo Numminen slipped a tight pass to Connolly at the top of the crease. The slick center was falling down when he shoved his backhander past Johnson.

The Capitals tied the score at 7:57 on Clymer's first goal, set up by a wonderful Ovechkin pass just before he was knocked to the ice. Then they closed the first period in spectacular fashion.

Ovechkin netted his 19th power-play goal after he battled past Sabres winger Jason Pominville along the left boards. Ovechkin breezed into the circle and delivered a blistering shot inside the far post with 49 seconds left in the period.

Halpern beat Briere on the ensuing faceoff, drawing the puck back to defenseman Ivan Majesky, who then threaded a pass to the center streaking through into the Sabres zone unabated. Halpern stickhandled Miller to the ice and slipped his backhander into the open net.

Briere tallied a power-play goal at 3:52 of the second period after a pass below the goal line from Connolly.

Briere struck again barely two minutes later to even the score at 3. He slipped into the Caps zone unguarded, and Jochen Hecht found him skating down the slot. Briere has five goals and eight assists in the team's past seven games.

Clymer's second goal gave Washington a lead it took late into the third, but it only set up yet another astonishing Sabres comeback.

"They just never quit," Ruff said. "They battle through adversity. The message is when you're dealt tough cards you give it your all and you go until the last whistle."

e-mail: tgraham@buffnews.com

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