Ovechkin seals Capitals’ 4-3 shootout win over Sabres
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said it’s no secret how every team has its share of set plays following offensive zone faceoffs.
Not every team, however, has Alex Ovechkin.
With the Capitals trailing 3-2, Ovechkin one-timed in Evgeny Kuznetsov’s faceoff win in the right circle to tie the game with his team-leading 41st goal with 3:13 remaining in the second period. And the captain then proceeded to secure a 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres by scoring the decisive shootout goal on Friday night.
“It’s not an emphasis. It’s just everybody’s got a bunch of faceoff plays they they try and run,” Laviolette said. “But when it’s on his stick, it’s got a chance.”
Such was also the case with Ovechkin’s scoring in the shootout.
After Buffalo’s Tage Thompson and Kuznetsov traded shootout goals, Ovechkin scored on Washington’s third opportunity. He drove in from the right side and faked going forehand before going backhand to chip the puck in over Dustin Tokarski at the left post.
Anthony Mantha and Nick Jensen also scored in helping Washington snap a two-game skid. Ilya Samsonov stopped 20 shots through regulation and allowed one goal on three shootout attempts.
The Capitals, by virtue of earning a point by reaching overtime, officially eliminated the Eastern Conference’s last-place Montreal Canadiens from playoff contention.
Jeff Skinner scored twice and Victor Olofsson added a goal for Buffalo, which had a three-game winning streak snapped. Tokarski stopped 37 shots through overtime, including foiling John Carlson on bang-bang chances off a two-on-one break before the overtime buzzer.
Buffalo squandered a chance to win four straight for the first time since a 10-game winning streak in November 2018.
Rather than being disappointed, coach Don Granato credited his team for not letting up against a playoff-contender at a time the youth-laden Sabres are building for the future in having all but been mathematically eliminated from contention for an NHL-record 11th consecutive season.
“We didn’t have our A-game tonight, but we battled it the right way,” Granato said. “They figured out how to play when you’re not feeling good, and against a really tough team. So we found a way to get a point and we were in here and could have almost got two points.”
How close? Just ask Olofsson, who looked to the rafters in frustration 5:15 into the third period after he missed scoring into an open net. With Samsonov out of position, Olofsson had the puck in the slot only to shoot the puck wide of the right post.
“I want that one back, for sure,” said Olofsson, who aimed for the corner to avoid a sliding Ovechkin.
The Sabres dropped to 7-4 in their past 11 games, which included wins over Pacific Division-leading Calgary, two against the Toronto Maple Leafs and a 4-3 shootout victory over Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.
Kuznetsov credited Laviolette for settling the Capitals by calling a timeout after Skinner, with his second of the game, and Olofsson scored 2:25 apart to put Buffalo up 3-2 with 7:05 left in the second period.
“Yeah, he’s got that switch inside of him,” Kuznetsov said. “It did help and that’s why he’s the coach, right? He had the feeling that he had to say something, and it worked out.”
PILING UP POINTS
Kuznetsov’s assist extended his career-best point streak to 11 games, during which he has seven goals and seven assists. ... Ovechkin has five goals in his past six and increased his career total to 771. He ranks third on the list behind Wayne Gretzky (894) and Gordie Howe (801). Ovechkin also earned his 1,397th career point, one behind former Edmonton star Jari Kurri, who ranks 21st on the list.
Buffalo, coming off a 4-3 shootout win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday, played its fourth consecutive game that went past regulation, following OT wins at Vancouver and Calgary last weekend. The game Friday marked the first time the Sabres had four consecutive games go past regulation since a 2-0-2 stretch from March 10-17, 2012.
Capitals: RW T.J. Oshie missed his fourth consecutive game with a lower-body injury.
Sabres: C John Hayden remains in a Vancouver hotel after testing positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.
Capitals: Host New Jersey to open four-game homestand on Saturday.
Sabres: Travel to play New York Rangers on Sunday.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports