WASHINGTON -- For the second time in as many nights, it appeared as if the Capitals' comeback was going to come up short. But Tom Wilson tied the game for the home side with just over one minute remaining to send the game into overtime, Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie scored in the shootout to give the Capitals a much-needed 5-4 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
The Capitals' comeback effort appeared to take a hit when Alex Ovechkin was penalized with 3:42 remaining in the third period and the team trailing by one. Yet, Washington received some life when Alex Tuch was sent to the box during the Sabres' power play for roughing.
Peter Laviolette opted to bring an extra skater out and the Capitals' head coach was rewarded, as Wilson's goal tied the game with just 68 seconds remaining in regulation during a 6-on-4 situation. The goal from Wilson was Washington's first game-tying or go-ahead goal in the final two minutes of the third period this season. The Capitals rallied from three separate two-goal deficits on Wednesday night, pulling out an impressive victory they desperately needed.
Slow starts have plagued the Capitals for much of the season. And on Wednesday, it was no different. The Sabres were able to get on the scoreboard just 4:47 into the first period courtesy of Ilya Lyubushkin. Charlie Lindgren was unable to pick up the puck off Lyubushkin's shot, as Kyle Okposo did an excellent job screening the Capitals netminder.
Buffalo's opening goal came on their first shot of the game, the second straight game Washington has allowed such a feat. It also marked the third straight contest the Capitals fell behind 1-0 within the first few minutes of the opening frame.
After taking an early lead, Buffalo kept the pressure on the Capitals and was rewarded again just moments later. During a 2-on-1 rush, Sabres forward Jack Quinn dug into his back of tricks and pulled out a pretty toe drag to deke Trevor van Riemsdyk before finding an open JJ Peterka for a tap-in goal.
Trailing by two halfway through the opening period, the Capitals had an immediate answer. Less than one minute after Buffalo's second goal, the Capitals earned their first power play after Riley Stillman was called for interference. The Capitals wasted little time on the man advantage, as T.J. Oshie cleaned up a Dylan Strome rebound for his 18th goal of the season.
The Capitals followed Oshie's goal with several impressive shifts, including a couple from the fourth line. Despite keeping the puck in Buffalo's offensive zone for the bulk of the latter half of the first period, the home side was unable to find an equalizer.
With just two minutes to go in the opening period, Capitals forward Conor Sheary was tripped by a Buffalo defenseman as he attempted to carry the puck back into Washington's zone. No penalty was called, however, and Sabres center Tyson Jost was able to take advantage.
In a 1-on-1 situation against Lindgren on a breakaway, Jost fired the puck in the top corner above Lindgren's stick to extend Buffalo's lead back to two. The Sabres entered the first intermission with a two-goal lead despite being outshot 9-6 in the frame.
Neither team was able to find the back of the net in the second period, as Buffalo kept its two-goal advantage entering the final frame despite the Capitals holding a 17-15 edge in shots on goal.
With just seconds remaining in the second period, the Capitals received a brief scare as defenseman Rasmus Sandin was struck by the puck in his left knee and immediately fell to the ice in pain. After being consulted by a team trainer, Sandin was eventually helped off the ice by Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom but could not put much weight on his injured leg, if any.
Sandin, who just turned 23 last week, has been Washington's best defenseman since the team acquired him just before the trade deadline. The Swede recorded eight points in his first four games with the Capitals, a franchise record. Sandin did return to the ice early in the third period after remaining in the locker room for the start of the final frame.
The Capitals began the third period with an aggressive approach and it took just 92 seconds for them to reap the benefit. Alex Alexeyev found an open Evgeny Kuznetsov in the slot, who fired a missile off Sabres netminder Ukko-Pekka Lukkonen's body and into the back of the net to bring Washington within one once again.
Washington's one-goal deficit didn't last long, though, as the Sabres answered roughly four minutes later. Buffalo's Peyton Krebs won a puck battle behind the net and proceeded to deliver a pretty backhand pass to Zemgus Girgensons, who then beat Lindgren from the low slot for the club's fourth goal of the evening.
The Capitals just wouldn't quit, though. With 9:30 remaining in the final period, defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk delivered a shot from near the blue line that was deflected by Ovechkin into the net for his team-best 37th goal of the season.
Washington's comeback effort was complete when Wilson tied it with 68 seconds remaining. After neither team was able to score in overtime, Kuznetsov and Oshie scored both of their shootout attempts while Lindgren was a brick wall for the Capitals on the other side.
After allowing three goals on Buffalo's first six shots, Lindgren settled into net and played well during the final two periods, stopping 20 of the Sabres' final 21 shots on goal.
Washington's win did come at a price, however, as the Capitals were hampered by injuries throughout the night. Sandin, Oshie, Wilson and Nick Jensen each missed at least one shift against Buffalo. Sandin, Oshie and Wilson were all able to eventually return; Jensen was not.
Wednesday's victory was Washington's first win over Buffalo this season; the Sabres won the first two games of the season series, 5-4 and 7-4, respectively. The Capitals now sit at 73 points, trialing the Islanders by three points for the final Wild Card spot.