Check and check.
“This is definitely what we wanted to clean up,” Briere said. “Sometimes it’s a good thing to hit the rough patch before you hit the playoffs. And hopefully we’re out of it now and we can look forward and come into the playoffs on a roll.”
Drew Stafford had two third-period goals and Clarke MacArthur also scored, while Dainius Zubrus had two assists in his first game against his former team; the Sabres acquired the forward in a deal with the Capitals last month.
The Eastern Conference-leading Sabres (47-19-7) joined Nashville in becoming the second NHL team to reach the 100-point mark this season.
The two power-play goals ended a seven-game drought—Buffalo’s longest since 2003-04. And the Sabres avoided losing four straight at home for the first time since early last season.
“Small things mean a lot and I think we just want to be ramping up at the right time,” said Ryan Miller, who made 24 saves. “Last 10 games for us is going to be a focal point and tonight was a good step forward.”
It helps that the Sabres fine-tuned their game against the Capitals (26-35-13), who continue displaying the telltale inconsistencies of a young team. Besides dropping to 1-8-2 in their past 11 road games, the Capitals failed to build off two home wins in which they outscored their opponents by a combined 12-2, including a 7-1 win over Tampa Bay on Sunday.
“They just played well. We didn’t score,” said Alex Ovechkin, the Capitals star held without a point for a third consecutive game.
The Sabres, coming off a 2-0-2 four-game road swing, took control with a three-goal second period.
Roy’s goal, which opened the scoring 40 seconds into the second, came courtesy of a fortunate bounce after Dmitri Kalinin’s shot from inside the blue line sailed wide and high. The puck bounced to the right of the net, where Roy slid it in the open side with goalie Olaf Kolzig looking the other way.
Not exactly how Sabres coach Lindy Ruff drew it up, but he’ll take it, considering it was his team’s first goal in 26 power-play chances.
“We had some good power plays on the road trip and missed some great opportunities,” Ruff said. “But you don’t want to talk about missing great opportunities. You want to talk about scoring on the opportunities you get.”
Briere’s goal, which put the Sabres up 3-1, came on a gritty play, set up after Zubrus forced a turnover behind the Capitals net. With a step on Washington defender Jeff Schultz, Briere skated out in front and wrapped it in through Kolzig’s legs.
“We can’t turn the puck over against a team that good,” Pothier said. “They take advantage of their opportunities.”
Briere’s goal was his 30th of the season, giving the Sabres an NHL-best four players with 30 or more. It marks the first time Buffalo has had four 30-goal scorers since 1990-91.
The Sabres had a goal disallowed 7 minutes in when officials correctly ruled Stafford directed the puck in with his glove. … Capitals LW Matt Pettinger, who missed his ninth game with a a broken thumb, is expected to return within the next two games. … Sabres D Toni Lydman missed his third game with what the team is referring to as an upper body injury. … With nine games remaining, the Sabres are six wins short of breaking the franchise record for victories set last year. … The Sabres’ two power-play goals were their most in 13 games, dating to a 6-3 win against Philadelphia on Feb. 20.