The Capitals jumped out to a 2-0 lead and rode that to a 4-3 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. The win pulls Washington back into a tie with the New York Islanders -- who lost on Friday -- for first place in the East Division with 56 points. The Caps also remain two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins.who won their game on Friday.
Here is how the win happened.
A good start
Bad starts have been an issue of late for Washington, but the Caps jumped out to an early 2-0 lead on Friday.
Brenden Dillon scored less than three minutes into the contest with a slap shot from the blue line to beat goalie Dustin Tokarski. Alex Ovechkin scored his 21st of the season exactly nine minutes later as a pass meant for the streaking Tom Wilson ended up hitting off of defenseman Rasmus Dahlin and in.
It was not a perfect start as Buffalo still outshot Washington in the first frame (9-7), recorded more high-danger opportunities (2-1) and scored to cut the lead to 2-1, but it was much improved from Thursday's start against the Boston Bruins.
Henri Jokiharju made it 2-1 with less than two minutes remaining in the first period. Those type of goals can be huge momentum swings, but it was the Caps who responded with Justin Schultz scoring just 28 seconds into the second.
Lars Eller won an offensive zone draw back to Schultz and the Sabres were caught puck watching. No one came to challenge Schultz on the blue line, so he crept his way up and finally fired a slap shot from the middle at about the top of the faceoff circles. The shot beat Tokarski to make it 3-1.
The penalty kill
One of the few aspects of Buffalo's game that has not been terrible this season is its power play. That power play got three chances to get on the board Friday but was denied all three times.
Three power plays is not an outrageous amount, but given the narrow margin, all three kills were critical against a Buffalo team that looked much improved from the horrendous performance they put on the last time these two teams met in a 6-0 Caps victory on March 15.
Vrana back on the board
The Caps and Sabres were locked in a one-goal game heading into the third period and the game remained tight until Jakub Vrana provided some breathing room with his 11th goal of the season.
Strong forecheck work by T.J. Oshie and Lars Eller forced a turnover which Eller handed off to Schultz. Schultz cut down the middle, then flicked the puck over to Vrana for the one-timer.
The goal was Vrana's first since March 9 and snapped a 13-game drought. He ranks second on the team in even-strength goals as all 11 have come at even strength.
The goal made it 4-2. Tage Thompson would pull the Sabres to within one, but the Caps would hold on for the win giving Vrana the game-winner.