The Capitals went into Sunday’s contest willing to match the high-speed pace of the Sabres and it made for an entertaining, back-and-forth contest that ultimately titled in Buffalo’s favor 7-4. A four-goal second period by the Sabres threatened to bury Washington early, but the road team fought back enough to keep it close before the Sabres pulled away late.
Starting goaltender Darcy Kuemper for the second time in as many days, the Capitals hoped to build on Saturday’s uplifting victory over the New York Rangers and climb over one of the teams tied with them in the Wild Card standings. A wild first 20 minutes of play saw their both teams exchange clean entries in the defensive zone for odd-man rushes the other way.
Dylan Strome and T.J. Oshie both found the back of the net to send the game into intermission tied at two goals apiece. Oshie’s goal was his fourth over his last three games.
Buffalo grabbed all the momentum in the second, scoring four unanswered goals in a five-minute span to stretch its lead to 6-2. Kuemper, not typically one to display much emotion, showed some frustration after allowing his fifth goal by snapping his stick against the post. The Capitals hadn't started Kuemper in both games of a back-to-back all season but did so Sunday in hopes of starting their first winning streak since late-December.
It didn't produce the result head coach Peter Laviolette was looking for and he pulled Kuemper in favor of Charlie Lindgren after the former allowed five goals on 19 shots.
With the game seemingly out of reach, the Capitals got a spark from their captain when Alex Ovechkin caught a rebound off the back wall and fired it past Sabres netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. The tally snapped a six-game drought for Ovechkin that stretched over the span of the month due to the All-Star Break and some personal leave for the death of his father.
A Sabres turnover three minutes later gifted Sonny Milano a breakaway opportunity and he took advantage with a backhand score. That would be as close as the Capitals would get, however, as a late goal by Sabres center Dylan Cozens gave the 22-year-old his first career hat trick and put the game away.
With the loss, the Capitals dropped to 29-27-6 including a 1-6-1 record in the second leg of back-to-backs. They will get two days to reset before continuing their four-game road trip with a matchup against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.