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Williams 'honored and humbled' by pregame ceremony

williamstribute.jpg

Williams 'honored and humbled' by pregame ceremony

On a night that included few highlights for the Caps and even less fire power, the highlight of the game didn't come during it, but before it. Prior to Sunday's regular season finale against the Anaheim Ducks, Justin Williams was honored for his 1,000th NHL game in a ceremony that included a video tribute and gifts from the NHL, the team and a special surprise from the players.

"I'm privileged and honored and humbled by the reception and the whole pre-game ceremony and my teammates," Williams said after the game. "It was a time I won't forget for sure."

The man affectionately known as "Stick" watched a video tribute on the ice with his wife and two children that included highlights from Williams' storied career as well as messages from several former and current teammates. Alex Ovechkin made an appearance as well, saying "You have to be perfect to play 1,000 games and you're the perfect man."

You can watch the tribute in the video above.

The tribute also included a message from his parents with his mom throwing in a joke about his hair after the phenomenal look he was sporting for the team picture.

"I think I get all the tips from her, obviously," Williams said after the game.

RELATED: Dates, times, TV set for Capitals' first-round series vs. Flyers

Williams was presented with a commemorative crystal from the NHL and a silver stick from the Capitals. He was also surprised with a trip from the players who chipped in for a golf vacation for two in Scotland.

An avid golfer, Williams said the trip came as a complete surprise.

"That's the first I heard of it and it was totally unexpected. Very grateful and happy the guys got me something."

Williams signed with the Caps as a free agent in the summer and his first season with the team has been a complete success for both the Caps and Williams. The veteran winger was courted by the Montreal Canadiens whose season imploded after the injury to goalie Carey Price. Now instead of watching the playoffs from home, Williams is preparing for what he hopes will be a lengthy playoff run with the Presidents' Trophy winning Capitals.

For the Caps, Williams provided steadying veteran leadership that the team sorely needed along with 22 goals and 30 assists. He is also one of seven Caps players to have appeared in all 82 games for the team this season.

When asked about what it took Williams to get to this point in his career, head coach Barry Trotz said, "Staying productive, staying fairly healthy and playing a number of games at a very high level. And obviously he's won some championships which we'd love to do around here."

Now the real work begins.

As good as the regular season was for Williams, the man also known as Mr. Game 7 was brought in to help the Caps where they needed it most: in the playoffs.

Williams has won the Stanley Cup three times in his career, once with Carolina and twice in Los Angeles. He earned the nickname Mr. Game 7 for his scoring 14 points in his career in Game 7s, tying a record set by Glenn Anderson.

For all the success Williams has seen in the regular season, he knows what's at stake now as the playoffs begin.

"First part of the year is over and the next part is the one I really care about," Williams said. "That's what'll make the icing on the cake."

MORE CAPITALS: Capitals end incredible regular season with a loss

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

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 starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group 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 opening 20 minutes.

RELATED: SEE THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-SABRES HERE

Andre Burakovsky snapping a 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 for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo 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 from the office. He would later add a deflection goal 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

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 to pull Buffalo to within one. 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. 983 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 came on a power play goal from the office, but there was no need for a one-timer on this one. The Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner.

He added a second goal late off a deflection from a John Carlson shot.

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 his speed caught the Sabres off-guard and they were not able to recover in time to actually slow him down.