Vitek Vanecek put on a dazzling performance in his NHL debut Friday to back-stop the Capitals to a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Washington now leaves Buffalo with two wins in their first back-to-back. These two teams will meet again in one week for Washington's home-opener.
Here is how the Caps won.
Vanecek looked right at home in his NHL debut and put together a sparkling performance in net with 30 saves on 31 shots. The lone goal he surrendered was a deflection off of Tom Wilson.
Vanecek's best save came in the second period as he denied a Taylor Hall one-timer on the power play. Buffalo had scored on backdoor opportunities on Thursday and Vanecek knew the pass over to Hall was coming and got over just in time to make the save.
In Thursday's game, the Caps took a 4-1 lead and suddenly played a lackadaisical defensive game. On Friday, they may have over-corrected as the majority of the night was played in the defensive end with little offense to speak of. When Washington had nothing going for them in this game it was Vanecek that kept them in it.
The penalty kill
The Sabres were skating laps around Washington at the start of the game and drew three power plays in the first period alone. With three opportunities to get on the board and take control of the game, Washington's penalty kill was able to turn aside all three opportunities and keep the game scoreless after the first period.
For the game, the Caps' penalty kill was a perfect 5-for-5. The 43-year-old Zdeno Chara recorded 4:21 of shorthanded ice time and looks very comfortable with his new team through two games.
Washington's player of the game was definitely Vanecek, but the best skater was Wilson who recorded a goal and an assist in a night in which offense was hard to come by.
The Caps did not generate much offense early with only six shots on goal in the first period and another seven in the second. The Sabres made a living in the Caps' defensive zone in the first period, but could not get a goal past Vanecek. Early in the second, the Caps struck back.
Rasmus Dahlin fumbled the puck at the blue line and Wilson pounced on it to get it out of the zone and up the wall. Jakub Vrana saw the play developing and waited in the middle of the ice. Wilson made a great play to dig the puck off the boards and pass it to Vrana in stride who beat Linus Ullmark to give Washington the 1-0 lead.
With the game tied at 1 in the third period, Wilson called his own number after he generated a turnover from Colin Miller. Nicklas Backstrom pounced on the loose puck and dropped it off to Wilson who beat Ullmark glove side to the top shelf.