The Washington Capitals would give themselves a better chance of winning if they didn’t leave it all up to their goaltenders.
The Capitals, who have allowed the most goals in the league this season, look to avoid a third straight defeat when they visit a Buffalo Sabres squad off to its best start in 30 years.
Washington has given up an NHL-high 40 goals after losing 4-0 to Carolina on Saturday. Olaf Kolzig continued to get no defensive help from his teammates, facing an onslaught of 41 shots to fall to 3-5-0 this season.
“Olie let in four goals and I think he should have been the star (of the game),” Carolina’s Ray Whitney said. “The stops he made, the plays he made, they were simply amazing.”
It was the fourth straight game in which the Capitals permitted at least 40 shots. Kolzig faced 49 on Thursday in a 3-2 defeat to Florida and backup Brent Johnson—in his only start—also faced 49 in a 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Oct. 13.
Washington watched the Hurricanes go 3-for-12 on the power play Saturday, including 2-for-4 while peppering Kolzig with 24 shots in the second period alone. Conversely, the Capitals failed to score on the power play for the fifth straight game, going 0-for-21 during that span.
“We just get ourselves in penalty trouble and it’s kind of a snowball effect,” said Kolzig, who’s facing an average of 38 shots per game. “It seemed like the first few kills we did a great job, then I think we got too tired and we allowed them too many easy chances. We have to eliminate the penalties sooner or later, or it’s going to be a long season.”
The Caps need to break the trend against a Sabres club that thoroughly dominated them during the 2003-04 season. Buffalo tossed 143 shots at Washington goalies that season and outscored the Capitals 21-4 for a four-game sweep.
The Sabres’ 6-2-0 start is their best since winning eight straight to open the 1975-76 season.
Sabres defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick’s game-winner was intended as a pass before bouncing into the net off a Rangers defenseman and Briere’s team-leading seventh goal, which tied the game 44 seconds into the second period, came on a weak backhander that New York goalie Henrik Lundqvist misplayed.
The victory was Miller’s sixth this season, leaving him one shy of becoming the first rookie goalie to win seven games in the month of October since Ed Belfour in 1990.
Teppo Numminen added two assists for Buffalo, which improved to 4-0 at home — the team’s best home start since opening the 1984-85 season with five straight victories.
STANDINGS (through Oct. 24): Capitals - 6 points, 4th place (tied), 5 PB, Southeast Division. Sabres - 12 points, 1st place (tied), Northeast Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Capitals - Alexander Ovechkin, 6 goals and 10 points; Steve Eminger, 5 assists and 27 PIM; Eminger, 27 PIM. Sabres - Briere, 7 goals and 9 points; Thomas Vanek, 7 assists; Jochen Hecht, 12 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Oct. 24): Capitals - Power play: 12 percent (6 for 50), 26th in NHL. Penalty killing: 75.6 percent (59 for 78), 29th. Sabres - Power play: 13.8 percent (8 for 58), 22nd. Penalty killing: 83.3 percent (30 for 36), 14th (tied).
GOALTENDERS: Capitals - Kolzig (3-5-0, 0 SO, 4.08 GAA); Johnson (0-1-0, 0, 5.07). Sabres - Miller (6-2-0, 0, 2.70); Martin Biron (0-0-0, 0, 0.00)
2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Sabres, 4-0-0.
LAST MEETING: March 10, 2004; Sabres, 6-0. At Washington, Mike Grier had a goal and two assists, a day after the Capitals traded him to Buffalo, and Biron made 27 saves to earn his first shutout since Jan. 24, 2003.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Capitals - 0-3-0 on the road; Sabres - 4-0-0 at home.