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Caps' first taste of 3-on-3 is pretty sweet

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Caps' first taste of 3-on-3 is pretty sweet

We all wondered when and where the Capitals would finally participate in 3-on-3 overtimes and in their 10th game of the season Saturday night in Sunrise, Fla., we found out how they’d look.

Locked in a 1-1 tie thanks to some timely saves by backup goaltender Philipp Grubauer and intuitive line shuffling by Barry Trotz that resulted in Jay Beagle’s game-tying goal in the third period, the Caps and Panthers went to 3-on-3 hockey at BB&T Center.

Barry Trotz started with a conservative trio of forward Nicklas Backstrom and defensemen Matt Niskanen and Karl Alzner, then went on the offensive by sending forwards Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov and defenseman John Carlson over the boards.

Forwards Jay Beagle and T.J. Oshie and defenseman Dmitry Orlov were next and Jason Chimera, Justin Williams and Marcus Johansson also saw time in overtime before the Russian trio of Kuznetsov, Ovechkin and Orlov won the game with a blend of skill and deceit.

Orlov won a play along the offensive right wing boards and dished for Kuznetsov, who made an arc around the high slot and faked a drop pass to Ovechkin. Panthers forward Reilly Smith took the bait and darted to the high slot to cover Ovechkin and Kuznetsov used the extra space to gain a step on defenseman Brian Campbell.

That extra time and space was enough for Kuznetsov to measure up goaltender Al Montoya and beat him off the near post with a perfect shot 3:44 into the extra period.

When all was said and done, Backstrom, Niskanen, Ovechkin, Orlov, Carlson and Kuznetsov each took two overtime shifts, while Beagle Oshie, Williams, Chimera, Johansson and Alzner took one each.

The goal was Kuznetsov’s fifth of the season and his team-high 13th point in 10 games, four behind Dallas forward Jamie Benn.

The Caps will enjoy a day off in southern Florida on Sunday then hit the ice for practice on Monday before flying to New York to take on the Rangers Tuesday night at 7 on CSN.

[RELATED: Trotz endorses Ovechkin as Hall of Famer]

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

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USA TODAY Sports

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.​

A quick start

Strong stars go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a team in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the first.

Andre Burakovsky snapping second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked at points this season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo just would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play form the office. He would later add a deflection goal late to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.

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3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

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USA TODAY Sports

3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.

Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 893 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first was a power play goal from the office. No need for a one-timer on this one, as the Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner. He added a late 

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net. It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole. Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but could not slow him down at all.