The Sabres desperately wanted a do-over with Washington. They felt a 6-1 loss 10 days ago wasn’t representative of what they could do against the Capitals. They were tired and sluggish after arriving in the capital during the wee hours of the morning for the second game of a back-to-back, and they say Washington’s leaders rubbed the loss in their faces.
Buffalo got its chance for revenge Monday. It will have to wait until next season for full payback, but the Sabres earned back some respect.
Washington, the team playing for the second straight night this time, used its potent power play and a shootout goal by Evgeny Kuznetsov to down the Sabres, 4-3. The crowd in First Niagara Center saw the Sabres’ winless streak reach seven games (0-5-2).
“That was a stinker last time we were in Washington,” Sabres right wing Tyler Ennis said. “They had their No. 1 unit out when it was 5-1 and they scored to make it 6-1, and they celebrated pretty hard. We were a little bitter about that. It would have been nice to beat them.”
Instead of a five-goal blowout, the teams went to overtime for the fourth straight time in Buffalo. The Sabres obviously played a much more competitive game in front of an announced sellout of 19,070, but trips to the penalty box hurt.
“They had two power-play chances, got two goals,” defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen said. “We played better than last time against these guys, but still losses are always losses. It’s tough right now. It would be nice to win games.”
Buffalo had a shot at victory as the teams entered the third period tied, 2-2. The officials whistled Nikita Zadorov for delay of game after he flipped the puck over the glass. Fellow defensemen Andre Benoit and Tyson Strachan followed by backing off Kuznetsov, allowing the forward to skate to the top of the circles and rip a screen shot home with 14:05 to play.
The Sabres answered with 6:10 left. Defenseman Chad Ruhwedel, called up from Rochester earlier in the day with Zach Bogosian and Andrej Meszaros absent due to injury, sent a shot toward the net that Johan Larsson tipped for his third goal in four games.
“He put it in my wheelhouse,” Larsson said.
The Sabres, who came in averaging 1.8 goals per game, scored twice in the opening 10:08 to take a 2-1 lead. The first goal was a beauty, the second was luck.
Ennis, who has a history of excelling against the Capitals, worked a sweet give-and-go with Ristolainen to start the scoring with 5:02 gone. With extra room during a power play, Ennis started the play with shifty moves from his newly created point spot before feeding Ristolainen. The defenseman, playing his 100th game, saw Ennis get open and found him for an easy goal.
“That power-play goal they scored was one of the prettier goals we scored all year,” Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. “Tyler’s just so creative, and we needed a guy back there who can play the whole two minutes. He did a pretty good job.”
Buffalo got the power play after Alex Ovechkin showed his feisty side. After Sabres defenseman Mike Weber rode Nicklas Backstrom into the boards, Ovechkin jumped Weber. The scuffle between the two resulted in an extra two-minute roughing call to the Great Eight.
Washington answered during its own power play as Curtis Glencross cleaned up a carom in front. Acquired from Calgary at the deadline, Glencross has four goals in seven games with the Caps.
Just 45 seconds later, Cody Hodgson put Buffalo in the lead with help from goalie Braden Holtby. Hodgson floated a soft backhand to the net, and Holtby’s save sent the puck high into the air. As the players looked around for it to come down, it struck Holtby in the back and bounced into the net.
The Sabres, who were averaging 23.1 shots per game, took 15 during the first period and finished with 33. Goalie Anders Lindback, beaten by Mike Green during the second period after being overly aggressive, made 35 saves in his sixth straight appearance in the Buffalo crease.
“I was happy with our effort. We competed from Lindy all the way out,” said Ennis, who turned his attention to Tuesday’s game in Boston. “It’s a quick turnaround. We’ve got to carry the strong, competitive play over.”