WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin's first goal of the season stood up as the game winner, giving first-year coach Adam Oates his first victory as a head coach in the NHL in the Capitals' 3-2 win over the visiting Buffalo Sabres on Sunday afternoon.
The Capitals improved to 1-3-1 with the win, while the Sabres dropped to 2-3-0.
Ovechkin played with a variety of linemates in the opening four games of the season -- all losses -- but seemed to find his groove when he was reunited with center Nicklas Backstrom and right wing Troy Brouwer.
But it was on the power play that Ovechkin made his mark in the game.
With Sabres defenseman Alexander Sulzer in the penalty box for delay of game, Ovechkin set up in his familiar spot in the left circle and drilled a pass from Mike Green past goaltender Ryan Miller at the 5:11 mark of the third period.
Ovechkin's goal snapped his longest scoring drought to open a season -- four games -- and gave the Capitals a 3-1 lead.
The Sabres rallied back to make it 3-2 on a goal by Marcus Foligno with 9:47 remaining, but Washington goaltender Michal Neuvirth closed the door the rest of the way to give the Caps the win.
The Capitals carried a 2-1 lead into the third period thanks to a rare goal by defenseman John Erskine. The rugged blue liner wristed a long shot from just inside the blue line that appeared to change direction when it hit Sabres forward Jochen Hecht and found its way behind Miller, who was making his fourth start in five games.
The goal was Erskine's 12th in 426 career games and his first since April 5, 2011. It also gave the Capitals just their second lead of the season. Neuvirth kept it that way when he made a goalmouth stop on Tyler Ennis with 1:10 remaining in the second period.
In the first period, the Sabres grabbed an early lead for the fourth time in five games when Ennis scored his first goal of the season at the 9:34 mark of the opening period. Ennis was the trailer on an offensive rush led by Drew Stafford and Steve Ott. A burst of speed gave him a step on Joey Crab, allowing him to slide a backhander between the pads of Neuvirth, who was getting his third straight start.
The Capitals tied the score at the 16:02 mark on Joel Ward's third goal of the season. Ward parked himself in the low slot and was in perfect position to drill Jason Chimera's bad-angle rebound past Miller. With his third goal, Ward already is halfway to his goal total of six last seasons under head coaches Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter.
Notes: The Sabres were without leading scorer Thomas Vanek, who suffered a muscle strain against the Carolina Hurricanes Friday night. Vanek had nine points (three goals, six assists) in his first four games this season, the fastest player to nine points in team history. ... Through four games Vanek, Jason Pominville and Cody Hodgson had combined for 20 of the Sabres' 31 points. ... Capitals forward Marcus Johanssson, who finished tied for third on the club with 46 points last season, was a healthy scratch. ... The Capitals return to action Tuesday night when they visit the Ottawa Senators. ... The Sabres return home to face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.