Rookie blueliner scores his first NHL goal in 4-2 win over Washington
The Buffalo Sabres might want to talk to the NHL about adding games against the Washington Capitals instead of reducing them. For the second time in exactly a month, the Sabres snapped a three-game losing streak against the visiting Capitals, with 4-2 win at First Niagara Center on Monday.
Coming off a winless three-game road trip, the Sabres returned home for the first time since defeating Toronto 5-4 on December 16. Buffalo used a season-high four-goal second period to propel them to victory on that night. Tonight they started the offensive barrage 20 minutes earlier.
Buffalo scored four times on just eight shots in the first period, highlighted by Brayden McNabb’s first career NHL goal. They found the back of the net on two of their first three shots, including Jason Pominville’s tally just 51 seconds in.
Washington was handed an early penalty when Roman Hamrlik was called for delay of game just nine seconds after the opening faceoff. It didn’t take long for Buffalo to make them pay. Drew Stafford found a streaking Pominville in the slot and he one-timed the pass behind Michael Neuvirth for his 12th of the season.
“Obviously, it changed the game because when you take advantage of an early power play -- we've seen where we haven't and momentum can go the other way -- but I thought we did a nice job early on in the game,” said Lindy Ruff. “We should have had a lot more. I think we hit like four posts, we missed an empty net, missed a breakaway. And then (Boyes) missing the one in the third, that's the ones you shake your head at.”
Matt Ellis and Christian Ehrhoff bumped Buffalo’s lead to 3-0, with Ehrhoff’s snapshot from the point at 11:15 bringing an abrupt end to Neuvirth’s night. He was replaced by Tomas Vokoun after allowing three goals on only six shots.
“It was a nice way to start, we set the tone early in the first period,” said Ellis. “I think we did a good job preparing mentally and physically with the two-day break. We set the tone early in this building and it carried through. It was a real well-balanced attacked tonight. I thought it was a great game, and a great start for us moving forward.”
McNabb then increased Buffalo’s lead to 4-0 on the power play at 14:14 of the first. With Alex Ovechkin off for tripping, Brad Boyes spotted McNabb in front after lugging the puck out of the Capitals corner with some nifty stickhandling. Using Luke Adam as a screen in front, the rookie blueliner fired a wrist shot past Vokoun for his first career goal.
“My first thought was maybe [Adam] touched it,” McNabb said afterwards. “But it went in, so I'm extremely happy. It took a little bit to get it, but I'm excited. It is [a relief], even to get that first point and get the ball rolling here.”
It was the first time since scoring four goals on eight shots against Toronto on December 18, 2009, that Buffalo posted a period with a shooting percentage of 50 percent or more.
Boyes and Jochen Hecht both made immediate impacts in their return to the lineup tonight. Boyes had 15:51 of ice time and collected one assist in his first action since suffering a left ankle sprain against Boston on November 23. Hecht returned after missing six games with a lower body injury when he blocked a shot against Florida on December 9. He skated 12:30 and picked up his first assist of the season on Ehrhoff’s goal.
Ryan Miller was in control all night, making 20 saves to improve his record to 9-8-2.
Matt Hendricks and Ovechkin were the Washington goal scorers.
NOTES: Buffalo’s goal scoring came by committee tonight, with 10 different Sabres collecting a point … These same two teams meet in Washington this Friday (7 p.m.) … Marc-Andre Gragnani (healthy), Paul Szczechura (healthy) and Tyler Ennis (ankle) were Buffalo’s scratches … Szczechura was assigned to Rochester after the game ... Colin Stuart was placed on injured reserve today.