WASHINGTON -- It took a while for Charlie Lindgren to become comfortable in net on Wednesday night.
Making his first start in roughly three weeks, Lindgren allowed Buffalo's first shot on goal to find the back of the net. The 29-year-old netminder was beaten twice more during the first period, too, as the Capitals entered their dressing room down 3-1 after the first 20 minutes.
"I'm not going to lie: that first period I really didn't feel myself, for whatever reason," Lindgren said. "I just felt like I wasn't really on it."
When Lindgren got back to the locker room, he spoke with goaltenders coach Scott Murray, who told him "you've got 23 guys here that love you." The netminder also thought about his father sitting in the stands, who returned to D.C. following the mentor's trip to watch his son play.
Lindgren returned to the ice in the second period a different goaltender than he was in the opening frame. Over the final 40-plus minutes, Lindgren stopped 20 of the Sabres' final 21 shots as Washington overcame a two-goal deficit three separate times to pull off an epic 5-4 shootout victory over Buffalo.
"There are so many things where when it gets down to it, when you don't feel good, you've just got to find ways to just persevere and battle through it," Lindgren said. "I think certainly I felt like I did that tonight but more importantly the whole team did that tonight. ... For us to come back and win the way we did, this might be the best-feeling win all year."
Capitals head coach Peter Laviolette said postgame he felt the Capitals' defense was just as responsible for a couple of the Sabres' first-period goals as Lindgren was.
"I think there were things we could've done there obviously better on some of those goals," Laviolette said. "We can alleviate some of that.
Laviolette then commended his goaltender for how he fought through adversity throughout the evening and praised the 29-year-old for the two big saves he made during the shootout to secure Washington's victory.
"He made some saves as the game moved on that continued to give us a chance to fight for the two points," the head coach continued. "In the shootout you still need saves. He made a couple of big ones on a couple of good players."
Following the game, Lindgren admitted he was thankful Laviolette let him work through his early struggles. The netminder felt his teammates were "fighting for our lives" and wanted to replicate that effort in net.
"When you look back at the game, you can see the urgency in our game and just the compete level and just the will to win," Lindgren said. "That was what we all saw tonight. And that's certainly what I saw."
Lindgren's competitiveness throughout the evening impressed his teammates, too, as multiple players spoke strongly about the goaltender's resilience on Wednesday.
"It's nice to see a goalie that honestly hates getting scored on as much in a game as he does in practice," T.J. Oshie said. "Sometimes that's a rare thing. I think that's one of the reasons why he was able to hang in there for us after a couple tough bounces, a couple tough odd-man rushes and some backdoor plays. He's just a competitor. I wouldn't expect anything less out of him. We've only been together for not even a full season yet, but that guy grinds and he won't quit. He showed it tonight."
Although the scorebook might suggest Lindgren had a rough evening against the Sabres (19 saves, four goals allowed, .826 SV%), it's hard to imagine the Capitals would have left Capital One Arena with a win on Wednesday had he not been stellar for the majority of the evening.