As the Capitals skated off the ice having survived a late-game Sabres push, the immediate focus was on another crucial two points gained.
With a 4-3 win in Buffalo, the Capitals jumped back into a tie with the Islanders for first place in the East division with just 15 games left to play. And more importantly, they got back in the win column after two straight losses to the Islanders and Bruins.
The Capitals are now 6-0-1 against the Sabres this season, with another game still to play. And with an 8-0-0 mark already registered against the Devils, the Capitals have done their part against teams in the bottom of the division.
“Not the effort or result we wanted last night, so it was important for us to come out tonight and get the two points,” defenseman Justin Schultz said. “I thought we played pretty well. There’s some areas for improvement, but we got the job done in this tough back-to-back and move on now.”
With just 15 games left to play this season, the Capitals are in a four-way race for the top of the division — the Islanders and Penguins each have played 41 games and are separated by just two points while the Bruins have eight less points than the Capitals (48) but have also played four less games.
Meaning that, while every game is important down the stretch, the Capitals cannot afford to stack many losses together as the regular season comes to a close. If they do, they’ll risk losing home ice advantage on a day when fans are now officially allowed to be at Capital One Arena.
“We were trying to push energy, we were trying to make that happen and you know you get caught in the schedule a little bit but I thought our guys responded and kept pushing the whole way through so it was good to get the two points and move on,” coach Peter Laviolette said.
That response was noteworthy, especially as the Capitals potted two goals in the first period and took a two-goal advantage, a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.
“We got the first goal, the Dilly goal,” said Jakub Vrana, whose goal in the second period was his first since March 9. “We were talking about it for a long time now, getting the pucks on the blue line and trying to create something in front of the net and we did that today. We got rewarded for it. Just overall game, I still think there are some windows we can still be better at, but like Schultz-y said, it was a big win for us, especially feeling good about going to the next game.”
In the final 15 games, the Capitals still have to play the Bruins three times, the Islanders three times, and the Penguins twice. There’s just one game left against Buffalo and none against New Jersey.
Which is why, at this point in the season, gathering the two points is the most important thing night in and night out.
“All the matters is just getting the wins,” Schultz said. “We got a big one tonight and we’ve got a big game coming up on Sunday that we’ve got to get ready for.”