The Washington Capitals got off to a hot start before stumbling in their last game. The Buffalo Sabres, meanwhile, were disappointing before putting together a dominant performance in their last outing.
The Capitals look to bounce back from their first loss of the season while the Sabres hope to build on a convincing win as the teams meet in Buffalo on Saturday.
Washington (3-1-0) outscored opponents 7-2 to open the season with a three-game win streak. However, the Capitals failed to match the best start in franchise history on Friday when they suffered a 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers.
Washington, which had killed each of its opponents’ 12 power-play opportunities before Friday, gave up three power-play goals in the first period. In the first two periods, the Capitals allowed 37 shots and played short-handed on eight different occasions.
“It wasn’t a good start,” said Washington goalie Olaf Kolzig, whose team has been outshot 72-37 over the last two games. “You a give team like that that many opportunities in the first period they’re bound to get some in. It’s a lesson learned.”
Despite the loss, forward Alexander Ovechkin continued his strong start. He scored Washington’s only goal, and has one point in each of the Capitals’ first four games. He has four goals and five assists in eight career games against the Sabres.
The Sabres (1-2-0) gave up nine goals while losing their first two games of the year—both against the New York Islanders. But Buffalo, which tied for the league’s best record last season, snapped its skid with a 6-0 victory over Atlanta on Thursday.
Sabres goalie Ryan Miller took both of the team’s early losses, but bounced back with 20 saves while recording his fifth career shutout.
“Not that I was slacking off in the summer, but I had to really put the pedal down because we want to be an elite team,” said Miller, who also had a shutout against Washington in his final start of 2006-07. “I need to be there for the guys when they need me.”
Miller is 4-1-0 with a 2.94 goals-against average in six career games against the Capitals, including 3-0-0 with a 1.68 GAA in his last three.
Miller got plenty of offensive support against Atlanta as Buffalo scored three power-play goals in the first period en route to its largest margin of victory since a 9-1 rout of Philadelphia on Oct. 17, 2006. The Sabres also held the Thrashers without a goal on eight power play opportunities, including a 5-on-3 advantage for a 1:34 span midway through the first period.
“Special teams are a big momentum booster,” said Buffalo forward Tim Connolly, who had a goal and two assists in that game. “Killing that two-man advantage kept us going in the right direction.”
While getting their first win of the year was an important achievement for the Sabres, they know there’s a lot of work to do in a bid for a second consecutive Northeast Division title. They’re currently in last place, already trailing NHL-leading Ottawa by eight points.
“It’s one game, so we’ll leave it at that,” defenseman Brian Campbell said Thursday. “Our goal isn’t just tonight. We want to get on a run here and keep going.”
Buffalo won three of four meetings with Washington last season, outscoring the Capitals 13-5 during a three-game win streak after a 7-4 defeat in the series opener.