|Record||Goaltender||GAA / SV%|
|Washington Capitals||3-0-2||Vitek Vanecek||2.81 / .889|
|Buffalo Sabres||1-3-1||Linus Ullmark||2.77 / .906|
The Washington Capitals are hoping to take down the Sabres again for the 4th time in four matches on Sunday afternoon, just hours before the Buffalo Bills play Kansas City for a chance to play in the Super Bowl. The Caps have beaten the Sabres 16 times in their last 21 meetings, including two overtime wins, and three shootout wins (mcubed).
On Friday night, the Washington Capitals defeated the Buffalo Sabres, again, even though it took a shootout to do it. Vitek Vanecek got the start for the Caps as Ilya Samsonov, in addition to Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Dmitry Orlov, was deemed unfit to play after violating COVID-19 protocols. The full #ALLCAPS reCAP can be found here.
The Capitals improved their nearly-perfect Home Opener record to 16-1-2 (last 19) and their season record to 3-0-2 (8 points). Washington had a great start to the first period as they dominated play despite Vanecek being tested early by Sam Reinhart. Unfortunately, a bad turnover behind the Caps net by Zdeno Chara led to the Sabres going up by one after Eric Staal beat Vanecek. With four minutes left in the first period, Nicklas Backstrom tied it with his 3rd goal of the season, 1-1.
Four minutes into the 2nd period, Nic Dowd scored his 2nd of the season to give the Caps the 2-1 lead.
Vanecek made a great save on a Skinner breakaway opportunity, but at the 10:43 mark, Dylan Cozens scored his first NHL goal to tie it, 2-2. Luckily for the Caps, Jakub Vrana reinstated his teams’ lead with his 3rd of the season (2nd point of the night) when he made it 3-2 on an essentially-open net, fed across the crease from Chara.
But just 42 seconds later, Riley Sheahan scored for Buffalo to again tie the game, 3-3. Washington struggled with allowing odd-man rushes and weak defensive zone coverage. Halfway through the third period, Tom Wilson left the Capitals bench, and did not return, after suffering an undisclosed lower-body injury. Neither the Caps nor the Sabres scored in the 3rd period, but Washington did get their first power play with all of 9.2 seconds remaining in the match.
Washington killed off both penalties taken during the game, but were unable to convert on their singular opportunity with the man-advantage, even in the overtime period. After neither team scored to win it in overtime, a shootout would be needed to crown a winner. It was Vitek Vanecek’s first career NHL shootout, just his 3rd game, and Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark had lost his dad just days earlier.
After four rounds of Vanecek’s first career NHL shootout, the Capitals finally emerged victorious as John Carlson successfully beat Ullmark, and Vitek stopped Reinhart’s shot.
Vanecek made 24 saves on 27 shots to end his night with a .889 save percentage. Ullmark allowed 3 goals on 32 shots for a .906 save percentage.
Washington’s next game will be on Sunday, against the Sabres, at 3:00pm EST.
Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Orlov, and Samsonov will be unavailable for the Capitals once again. *UPDATE* Additionally, Tom Wilson will not dress for Sunday’s game. Connor McMichael will dress for the team, and thus be making his NHL debut.
NBCSWA, NHL Network, and MSG-Buffalo will be covering Capitals vs Sabres, from Capital One Arena in Washington, DC, with puck drop coming shortly after 3:00pm.
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