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DULLED FINISH

Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 1:22 AM / THE AFTERMATH
By Kevin Snow  - Sabres.com (@kwsnow)
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DULLED FINISH
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WASHINGTON, DC --- The Buffalo Sabres threw everything they had at the Washington Capitals on Friday, but all it took was two shots from one of the NHL’s most dangerous goal scorers to be the deciding factor.

Alex Ovechkin scored twice as the Sabres extended their road losing streak to five games when they were handed a 3-1 defeat at the Verizon Center. The Sabres dropped to 17-17-3 on the season, and will next face Ottawa at home on Saturday to close out the calendar year.

Buffalo finished the game with 26 shots on goal, along with 23 blocked shots and 14 missed shots. Jochen Hecht scored Buffalo’s only goal, and was responsible for eight shot attempts (5-2-1).

The game got off to an inauspicious start for the Sabres when Mike Weber took a boarding call for a hit on Jason Chimera just 27 seconds after the opening faceoff. Ovechkin scored the game’s first goal 75 seconds later when his shot from the right wing was redirected behind Ryan Miller by Christian Ehrhoff’s upturned stick blade.

LISTEN TO LINDY RUFF'S POST-GAME COMMENTS

Lindy Ruff said it wasn’t how he wanted to start the game, but wouldn’t lay any blame on Weber.

“You start by taking a penalty. Webby is a physical player. I don’t think it was that bad a hit when I look at it,” Ruff explained. “Sometimes that early call is an easy one to make and they made it. That gets you behind the eight ball right off the bat. It’s hard not to tell a guy to not finish his check.”

The first period was all Caps as they outshot Buffalo 11-2. Buffalo didn’t record a shot on goal until Drew Stafford directed a puck at Tomas Vokoun 12:40 into the game.

“They came out hard; we expected them to come out hard after the way they played in our building (on Monday),” said Jochen Hecht. “They had something to prove. We had two shots in the first period and that’s not close to being enough.”

After Nicklas Backstrom put the Caps up by pair early in the second, the Sabres came to life. They attempted 32 shots at the Capitals net in the period – but 10 were blocked and they missed on seven others.

It’s about finishing. It’s not about bad luck after a while. You can get bad luck for one or two games, but it’s about finishing your chances. - Derek Roy
Hecht used his muscle to cut the lead in half at 15:02. Thomas Vanek patiently held on to the puck in the slot before firing a shot at Vokoun. The rebound kicked left, and Hecht outworked a double-team to get Buffalo on the board. Vanek’s assist on the play extended his point streak to seven games.

Despite their aggressive play in the second and third period, Buffalo’s inability to put pucks in the net ultimately cost them again. The Sabres have now scored just nine goals on 137 shots over their last five games.

“It’s about finishing. It’s not about bad luck after a while,” said Derek Roy. “You can get bad luck for one or two games, but it’s about finishing your chances. We had a couple of chances where it was just laying behind them and we didn’t poke it in. We have to outbattle the guy and put it in the back of the net.”

Buffalo took another hit on defense when Ehrhoff left the game with an upper body injury following a first period tussle with Troy Brouwer. The two never really threw any punches, but Brouwer landed awkwardly on top of Ehrhoff as they tumbled to the ice. Ruff said after the game that Ehrhoff is expected to be out for a few weeks. With Andrej Sekera already sidelined with an upper body injury, Buffalo will be forced to recall a blueliner from Rochester for Saturday’s game.

NOTES:
The Sabres haven’t won in Washington since April 3, 2009 … Sekera (upper body) and Tyler Ennis (ankle) were Buffalo’s scratches … Lindy Ruff said before the game that Nathan Gerbe could be ready to return to the lineup for Saturday’s game against Ottawa.

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