WASHINGTON (AP)—The Buffalo Sabres had a simple game plan against Washington, keep the pressure on the tired Capitals.
The strategy worked.
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff knew Washington didn’t get much sleep after the Capitals played a game in New York that started at 8 p.m. and wasn’t decided until the Rangers won in the 15th round of a shootout.
He wanted the Sabres to turn up the intensity, and they often pushed the Capitals back on their heels by controlling play.
“That’s a tough trip for them. That’s a tough turnaround,” Ruff said. “We talked about really trying to press, having both (defensemen) pinching, sending in two guys off all draws and creating as much pressure as we could.”
The Sabres got nine of the game’s first 10 shots and held a 29-19 edge overall as the Capitals looked worn down at times. Buffalo had numerous scoring chances but either missed or saw Washington goalie Olie Kolzig turn them away. Kolzig made 26 saves.
“When you play a National Hockey League game 17 hours after the last game, I just don’t think that’s right,” Capitals coach Glen Hanlon said. “But we didn’t even talk about it, and we didn’t use it as an excuse. At the end, we were still working hard.”
Vanek scored the go-ahead goal, and Hecht added a short-handed score late in the third period. Pominville also was on the ice during a wild final minute when Washington pulled Kolzig, and Buffalo had two players on the ice without sticks. The puck was cleared with 25 seconds left.
“It’s a dream come true,” Pominville said. “Hopefully, it can keep going.”
Washington has lost four straight.
Buffalo’s Martin Biron finished with 17 saves and made a big stop on his brother, Mathieu, in the second period. Biron also had to fend off a late surge as Washington pressed for the tying goal.
“They really came on strong in the last five minutes,” Martin Biron said. “We got a little lucky in the last minute. I think they might’ve hit three posts, a crossbar.”
The Sabres took a 1-0 lead when Pominville scored by redirecting Afinogenov’s pass by Kolzig for a power-play goal 3:56 in.
Washington tied it when Steve Eminger scored on a power-play goal at 5:16 of the second period, putting away the rebound of his own shot. Rookie Alexander Ovechkin assisted to give him at least one point in four straight games.
Vanek put Buffalo on top for good by converting another slick cross from Afinogenov with 48.8 seconds left in the second period.
Hecht flipped a back-hander past Kolzig for a 3-1 lead with 3:37 remaining. Matt Pettinger answered for Washington with 1:59 remaining.
The Sabres have scored power-play goals in 17 of 18 games. … Eminger hadn’t scored a goal in 17 games. … Buffalo’s short-handed goal was its first of the season.