WASHINGTON (AP)—The Buffalo Sabres had a simple game plan, one that worked to near perfection: Don’t do anything stupid.
But the key was the smart play of the Sabres, who were called for only two penalties and faced the league’s second-ranked power play for a mere two minutes.
“I thought the one thing Buffalo did well tonight was they kept their composure,” Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said. “They kept our power play off the ice, which for us is the intimidating tool of our hockey club.”
In a game between last-place teams that have struggled to score, neither club was willing to give the other an advantage because of a foolish infraction. Although Briere’s goal came on a delayed penalty call, the first penalty to be enforced occurred with 7:47 remaining.
Peter Bondra hit the post for the Capitals on the power play, and Buffalo held on.
“It was kind of a surprise that we could go into the third period with no penalties,” Satan said. “I don’t know if the game was so clean or if the refs had to be somewhere.”
Mika Noronen had 21 saves for the Sabres, 2-0-1 following a seven-game losing streak. Buffalo was playing its first game without leading scorer J.P. Dumont, who will miss at least a week with a hip injury, and was without center Chris Drury, who missed his fourth straight game with a shoulder injury.
“The thing that’s most impressive was that we had a couple of key players out of the lineup, two of your top three in the points department,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said. “The guys stuck with it, played hard and got rewarded.”
Bondra scored for the Capitals, who were seeking the 1,000th victory in franchise history.
Briere’s pivotal goal came with Noronen on the bench and the Sabres using six skaters. Satan got the puck on the left side of the net and passed across the crease to Briere, who beat goaltender Olaf Kolzig to put Buffalo ahead to stay.
The Capitals went up 1-0 when Bondra scored his 15th goal on a wrist shot from the left circle at 7:55 of the first period.
A blunder by Kolzig behind his own net allowed Buffalo to tie it late in the period. After straying from the crease to clear the puck, Kolzig tapped it meekly before Satan gained possession and scored into an open net.
“He misfired,” Satan said. “He was trying to shoot down the boards, he put a bobble on it and it went about five feet. I got it and the net was open.”
Buffalo outshot Washington 10-2 in a scoreless second period.
Washington D Brendan Witt returned after missing seven games with a shoulder injury. … Buffalo has gone 12 straight games without scoring at least four goals. … Jagr was held without a point for only the fourth time in his last 23 games. … With an assist on the Capitals’ goal, Jason Doig set acareer high for points in a season (nine).