Capitals’ aggressive gameplan vs. Sabres costs them on defensive end

Caps’ aggression vs. Sabres costs them on defensive end originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The Capitals went into Buffalo on Sunday ready to roll the dice.

Playing in one of their biggest games this season against a Sabres team tied with them in the standings, they started goaltender Darcy Kuemper on no day’s rest for the first time and took the ice looking to match the younger Sabres’ high-speed tempo. Neither gamble paid off as Buffalo ran away with a 7-4 win behind a four-goal second period.

Head coach Peter Laviolette eventually pulled Kuemper midway through the second after he allowed five goals on 19 shots, the last of which saw his frustrations boil over when he snapped his stick against the post and threw his helmet down the tunnel as he left.

That emotion was the result of the Capitals’ aggressiveness translating into more turnovers and odd-man rushes for Buffalo than it did for them.

According to Natural Stat Trick, Kuemper allowed three goals on high-danger chances and two in medium-danger situations. The trend continued even after Charlie Lindgren took over as both the goals against him were scored on high-danger opportunities.

Washington’s aggressive plan appeared to be working in the first period. They traded goals back and forth to send the score knotted at 2-2 heading into the intermission. Rather than try to slow things down and shore up their game on the defensive end, the Capitals continued to push the puck up the ice at the expense of odd-man rushes the other way.

The Sabres — the highest-scoring team in the Eastern Conference — weren't going to squander those opportunities. They pulled away for good with a four-goal barrage that spanned just seven minutes of game time. From there, it was Buffalo that was slowing things down to run out the clock.

It was a frustrating result all around for the Capitals, who fell behind the Sabres in the race for a Wild Card spot with four other teams right in the mix. Any momentum that they gained in Saturday’s win over the New York Rangers was lost and they now have just one game remaining before the March 3 trade deadline.