WASHINGTON – For stretches of play Friday night, the Buffalo Sabres showed they have the talent and structure to compete against one of the best teams in the National Hockey League.
That wasn't much of a consolation following a 6-1 loss to the Washington Capitals inside Capital One Arena. The Sabres (9-3-2) allowed four goals during a 4:27 stretch in the first period, the result of turnovers and bad defensive-zone coverage.
Jakub Vrana scored twice for the Capitals (9-2-3), who also received goals from Chandler Stephenson, Brendan Leipsic, Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie. The Sabres cut the deficit to three at 10:40 into the second period when Henri Jokiharju scored his first career NHL goal on a shot that deflected off Capitals defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler.
However, Washington pushed its lead back to four goals when Wilson tipped a shot from the blue line. Oshie scored with 6:17 remaining in regulation to push the Capitals' lead to five goals. Linus Ullmark was solid under difficult circumstances but suffered his second regulation loss of the season.
Washington leads the NHL with 23 points, recorded its best October in franchise history and has won seven of its last nine games. Buffalo has lost three of its past four games, including two in regulation.
Jack Eichel played his 300th career NHL game but was held without a point. Rasmus Dahlin recorded his 10th assist of the season but was on the ice for three goals against.
Opening salvo: Vrana opened the scoring when he collected a backhanded pass from Wilson and beat Ullmark with a low shot to the left post at 6:17 of the first. The Sabres had scored the first goal in 10 of their first 13 games this season.
High-wire act: Dahlin's gamble didn't pay off. The 19-year-old defenseman joined the rush in the offensive zone and almost connected with Jeff Skinner on a cross-ice pass for what would have been a goal.
However, the pass resulted in a turnover and the Capitals had a 4-on-1, which ended with Stephenson scoring 42 seconds following Vrana's goal.
Bad coverage: The Capitals pushed their lead to 3-0 when defenseman Michal Kempny retrieved a puck in the corner and sent a pass to the front of the net to Vrana, who scored his sixth goal of the season at 9:29.
Deja vu: Travis Boyd circled around the Sabres' net to create space in front and sent a pass across the slot for Leipsic to one-time past Ullmark for a 4-0 lead at 10:44.
Strong finish: The Sabres outshot the Capitals, 16-11, during the first period and had several scoring opportunities. Conor Sheary hit the post during a 2 on 1, Skinner hit the crossbar when he deflected Colin Miller's shot and Jack Eichel was stopped on a breakaway.
However, Washington goalie Braden Holtby, who had an .888 save percentage entering the game, stood tall. He needed to make only one save on Buffalo's power play in the first period.
Milestone: Jokiharju, a 20-year-old defenseman, has been more active in the offensive zone recently and had three shots on goal in the first period Friday night. His fifth ended up in the net, when a shot from the left point deflected off Siegenthaler and sailed over Holtby's shoulder to make the score 4-1.
Tip-in: Wilson spoiled the Sabres' momentum when he tipped Kempny's shot into the net at 16:53 into the second period to push the Capitals' lead to 5-1. Moments earlier, Dahlin poked a loose puck toward the blue line and it was retrieved by Kempny.
Next: The Sabres will not hold a morning skate ahead of their game Saturday night against the New York Islanders in KeyBank Center.