WASHINGTON -- With four third-period goals the Washington Capitals picked up their ninth straight win -- a 5-2 decision over the Buffalo Sabres in the Verizon Center Wednesday night.
The Sabres took leads of 1-0 and 2-1 on goals by Brian Gionta and Zemgus Girgensons with Jack Eichel setting up both goals.
Then the Caps took charge in the third. Alex Ovechkin tied the game early in the period with a perfectly placed a backhand past Sabres goalie Chad Johnson.
With a series of penalties on both teams, it was Washington which cashed in on an Evander Kane hooking call when Marcus Johansson redirected a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov for a 3-2 lead.
The Caps had all the mojo after that, adding another goal by Andre Burakovsky to cushion the lead while Ovechkin added an empty netter with 1:13 left.
Beauty passing: The line combination of Zemgus Girgensons, Jack Eichel and Brian Gionta paid off early for the Sabres. Driving into the Caps' zone, Girgensons had a perfect drop pass to a streaking Eichel who did what Eichel does -- jute, jive and dish. His sick backhand pass to Gionta set up the captain perfectly to beat Braden Holtby for a 1-0 Sabres lead just 5:48 into the game. It was the first goal for Gionta in nine games.
Johnson with the save: Chad Johnson was brilliant for 25 minutes for the Sabres. The netminder made some big saves, particularly in the second period when the Caps came in waves. He stopped Justin Williams, who was all alone in front of him, twice. He then robbed Marcus Johansson with a glove save.
Johnson with the giveaway: Then came the giveaway. He left the crease to play the puck behind the net. When players charged from one side he turned to play the puck up the wall on the other, but put it right on the stick of Williams. With no Johnson in net to stymie him, Williams buried his opportunity and tied the game, 1-1, with 5:52 left in the second. It was the Caps' 26th shot on goal.
A goal for Zemgus: The Sabres tied the game with 1:07 left in the second. Braden Holtby made the save on an Eichel shot, which he made from his knees, but followed Brian Gionta who was to his left in the crease and tangled with Caps defenseman Connor Carrick. So he didn't notice the puck bouncing in front of him or a hard-charging Zemgus Girgensons who pounded the puck home for a 2-1 Sabres lead. It was the first goal for Girgensons in 12 games.
No guff: Perhaps the on-ice officials had heard about the bad blood between the teams that sprouted in Buffalo on Monday. Just 27 seconds into the game Alex Ovechkin was called for roughing but the Caps killed off the penalty and the Sabres power play skid stretched to 0 for 18.
But guff there would be: Tempers started to flair at the end of the first when Tom Wilson took exception to Gionta's bump of Holtby and the two tangled behind the net. Zach Bogosian stepped in. Bogosian got two for roughing while Wilson got four. The Sabres still didn't score on the power play. That's an 0 for 19 skid if you're still counting.
Ennis out: Tyler Ennis took a hit from Ovechkin in the second period and went to the dressing room. He did not return and the Sabres said he suffered an upper body injury.
The wins keep on coming: The Caps extended their winning streak to nine games. They have earned a point in 17 of their last 18 games while their 28-6-2 overall record builds on the team’s best start in franchise history.
Protecting the barn: The Caps are 15-3-1 at Verizon Center this year, tying the Dallas Stars for most home wins in the NHL. Washington has won nine straight at home, outscoring opponents 33-17 in that span.
Scratched: Matt Moulson sat for the first time this season as his offense continued to flounder. Inserted into the lineup in his place was Marcus Foligno, who missed the last five games with an upper body injury. “He’s a big, strong, physical. Could be a dominate player with his size and skating ability and that’s, when Marcus gets an opportunity, what we need to see from him,” Bylsma said.
Carlo Colaiacovo was also scratched. For the Caps, it was Michael Latta, John Carlson and Stanislav Galiev.
World Junior Report: The American offense exploded for a 10-1 win over Switzerland at the IIHF World Junior Championships on Wednesday but Sabres prospect Will Borgen didn’t pick up a point. The defenseman was a plus-1 in the win. Borgan has an assist and is a plus-2 through three games in the tournament.
Next game: The Sabres host the New York Islanders for an early New Year’s Eve title. The teams meet at 6 p.m. in First Niagara Center. That kicks off a three-game homestand for the Sabres who host Detroit at 1 p.m. on Saturday and Florida at 7 p.m. Jan. 5.