WASHINGTON — A tie game late in the third period and a grievous turnover behind the net from Carter Hutton. It meant curtains for the Buffalo Sabres Friday night.
Hutton, a stalwart much of the season, lost the puck at a bad time and the giveaway turned into the Washington Capitals' winning goal in a 2-1 victory over the Sabres in Capital One Arena.
Hutton lost the puck behind the net to Evgeny Kuznetsov and the Caps' center fed it in front to Tom Wilson, who deposited it into the mostly empty net with exactly seven minutes left. That snapped a 1-1 tie and handed the Sabres their second straight loss.
Pulling even: It took the Sabres just over 49 minutes to break through against Caps goalie Braden Holtby and the goal came at 9:01 of the third as Johan Larsson's backhand tip of a Tage Thompson shot got the Sabres even at 1-1. That was all Buffalo could get on Holtby, who stopped 36 of 37 shots in the game. The Sabres outshot Washington, 37-24.
Breaking the ice: The Caps opened the scoring at 2:50 of the second on Chandler Stephenson's short-handed goal. The play was made at the Buffalo blueline by Nic Dowd, who wrested the puck away from Rasmus Ristolainen and lofted a backhand flip pass down the ice. Stephenson outraced Rasmus Dahlin for the puck and beat Hutton to the top corner on the breakaway.
Flip it up, snipe it in.
— NHL (@NHL) December 22, 2018
Holtby is Hasek-like: The Caps' goalie made several strong saves during the game but his signature play came late in the second period when he ended up sliding near the blue line to beat Ristolainen to a loose puck. The puck moved to the boards on the right wing and Conor Sheary had two cracks at it but Holtby stretched with his stick to deflect the puck into the mesh and out of harm's way.
Holtby doing stuff pic.twitter.com/RIciEFY9vu
— Ben Mathewson (@Ben_Mathewson) December 22, 2018
Big Break: Kuznetsov nearly put the Caps into a 2-0 lead midway through the second period by tucking the puck inside the post just behind Hutton's pad. The play was ruled no goal on the ice and stayed that way after review as officials ruled the whistle had blown on the play.
Back on defense: The Sabres returned Jake McCabe and Lawrence Pilut to the lineup from the injured list. McCabe was out nine games with an upper-body injury suffered in a Nov. 29 loss at Tampa Bay and the Sabres went 3-3-3 without him.
Zip-Zip: There was no score in the first period with the Sabres outshooting the Caps, 9-8, and neither team converting its lone power play chance.
Two-touchdown anniversary: Dec. 21 is a big day in the Sabres-Caps rivalry. It was 43 years ago Friday — Dec. 21, 1975 — when the Sabres wore out Washington, 14-2, at Memorial Auditorium in a game in which Buffalo scored a then-NHL record eight goals in the third period.
Rick Martin led the Sabres with four goals and an assist. Danny Gare also had a five-point night with a goal and four assists. Fred Stanfield (3-1-4), Gilbert Perreault (2-2-4), Don Luce (2-2-4), Jacques Richard (0-3-3), Brian Spencer (0-3-3) and Jim Schoenfeld (0-3-3) all had at least three points.
Next: The Sabres headed home immediately after the game and will play their final game before Christmas on Saturday night against Anaheim in KeyBank Center. The Ducks, who suffered a 3-1 loss Thursday in Boston, are 10-2 in their last 12 games.