Post-game analysis of the Capitals’ 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres Wednesday night at Verizon Center:
How it happened: Goals by Justin Williams in the second period and Alex Ovechkin in the third erased a pair of one-goal deficits, setting the stage for Marcus Johansson’s game-winner on the power play 8:32 into the final period. Andre Burakovsky finished off the Sabres with his first goal since Oct. 23, a stretch of 25 games and Ovechkin potted an empty-netter to complete the scoring.
Kuz-tastic: Evgeny Kuznetsov helped set up three goals. He forced Buffalo goaltender Chad Johnson into a giveaway behind the net on Williams’ open net goal in the second period; swung behind the net and left a drop pass for Ovechkin early in the third; and, taking the place of injured Nicklas Backstrom on the power play, banked a pass off Johansson’s stick and behind Chad Johnson for the game-winner.
What it means: The Caps (28-6-2) have now won nine straight – all of them in regulation -- and are alone atop the NHL standings with 58 points, one more than the Dallas Stars, who have played two more games. The Caps also improved to a league-best 5-3-1 when trailing after two periods. They are already 19-0-0 when leading after two.
Closing in on 500: Ovechkin's two goals were his 19th and 20th of the season, moving him within five goals of 500. He's also three goals behind Dallas' Jamie Benn for the NHL lead.
Injuries mounting: Centers Nicklas Backstrom (undisclosed) and Jay Beagle (upper body) left the game in the second period and did not return. Both will be evaluated on Thursday before the Caps play the Carolina Hurricanes. Beagle’s last shift came with 5:27 remaining in the second period. Backstrom played two full periods and did not come out for the third.
Power play shuffle: With John Carlson out of the lineup with a lower body injury, the Caps went with a first power play unit of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Marcus Johansson and Matt Niskanen. Their second unit had Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Justin Williams, Jason Chimera and Connor Carrick.
Nothing but hype: All the hype surrounding Zach Sill and the Caps exacting retribution on Nicolas Deslauriers was just that. Neither player paid much attention to the other. The referees called things pretty tightly, with Alex Ovechkin getting whistled for a roughing minor just 27 seconds into the game.
Jack knows hockey: In his first visit to Washington 19-year-old rookie Jack Eichel was an absolute joy to watch. He set up both Buffalo goals, whipping a backhand pass to Brian Gionta for a 1-0 lead and firing a shot that led to Zemgus Girgensons’ second-period goal to make it 2-1. Sabres coach Dan Bylsma seemed to call Eichel’s number every time the Caps’ third defense pairing of Taylor Chorney and Connor Carrick jumped over the boards.
Look ahead: Shortly after Wednesday night’s game the Caps were scheduled to catch a flight for Raleigh, where they’ll take on the Carolina Hurricanes, who are coming off a 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night. The Canes are seventh in the Metro Division with a 15-17-5 record and are 8-9-2 on home ice. The Caps are 2-0-0 against the Canes this season, winning 4-1 at home on Oct. 17 and 2-1 in Raleigh on Dec. 21.