The Buffalo Sabres visit the Verizon Center in Washington DC to take on the Caps in the 2nd of a home & home series.  The Sabres were victorious at HSBC Arena last Thursday against Ovechkin and crew, taking a 3-2 win in overtime.  The Caps sit at first place in the East (and the league) with 27 points and a record of 13-4-1.  Buffalo is in 10th position with 17 points in 19 games.  Buffalo is 4-0-1 in its last five games including a win over Pacific division leading Vancouver.  

I think it’s safe to assume that Ryan Miller will start in net tonight.  For more pregame coverage turn to Paul Hamilton at WGR550.

Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn returns to Washington for the first time since leaving this summer via free agency.

It's so windy, my Sabres hat almost blew off my head today while I was walking to buy a 12 pack of Labatt Blue Light. 

 

 

 

 

Period One:

Michael Neuvirth will start in net tonight for the Caps.  Neuvirth is 11-3-0 this season.  Grier-Niedermayer-McCormick line will start against the Ovechkin line.  This matchup will continue to be Lindy Ruff’s desired situation throughout the game.  The puck drops!  Jordan Leopold with a nice poke-check on Ovechkin as the Russian sniper bears down on net.  Jason Pominville tries to increase the population with a wicked wrister from the right circle, but is stoned by Neuvirth. 

Steve Montador leads the league in +/- and is looking confident throughout the game.  Montador is playing on a pairing with Jordan Leopold who has also been contributing offensively.  This game has more whistles than a pack of drunk sailors at Hooters; there’s no flow to the game. 

Ryan Miller makes a nice save on Matt Bradley but loses sight of the puck as it dribbles barely wide of the net.  Tyler Ennis showing some grit with a bump in the corner.  Instead of visiting the box, Rob Niedermayer actually DRAWS a slashing penalty.  Tim Connolly skys a shot into the cheap seats.  Jochen Hecht goes to the backhand; Denied!  The power play gets a few chances but fails to capitalize.

Interesting observation: Paul Gaustad switches hands to take the draw and wins it by using the knob of the stick to slide it back to the D-Man.  Ovechkin gets the puck at center ice & you can feel the energy as the audience anticipates something great.  Buffalo did a decent job of shutting down the big Russian throughout tonight’s game.

Things start to go downhill as Chris Butler receives a big check and responds by taking a tripping penalty.  Unlucky 13 seconds later Tyler Myers takes a holding penalty to give the Caps an extended 5 on 3 advantage.  Miller and the Sabres PK is doing a stellar job, stopping shots by Ovechkin and Mike Green.  However, they fail to clear and with :24 left in the 5 on 3 Alexander Semin finds Nicklas Backstrom backdoor who slams the puck home for the 1-0 lead.

Ryan Miler is looking solid in net tonight as he stops the Swedish youngster Marcus Johansson on a snap shot from the slot.  At the other end Tyler Myers lets loose a shot that rattles around until Neuvirth covers up for the face-off.  Nathan Gerbe has some solid puck possession down low.  Gerbe is returning tonight from a broken jaw that he received when an errant Tyler Myers slapper hit him a few games back. 

Three minutes remain and Caps winger Jason Chimera outworks the Sabres D downlow, slides the puck out front for Matt Bradley who snaps it home from short range.  2-0 Caps.  Washington leads 11-8 in shots after one period. 

Lines tonight:

1)    Ennis - Vanek – Roy

2)    Pominville – Hecht - Connolly

3)    Grier – Niedermayer – McCormick

4)    Gaustad – Ellis - Gerbe

Defense Pairings: Leopold & Montador, Myers & Sekera, Butler & Morrisonn

 

Period Two:

Marcus Johansson comes out with a spin around snap shot from the slot.  Save Miller!  Disaster strikes as David Steckel rips a shot off the pipe, hits Miller in the skate and finds its way into the Bufaflo net.  3-0 Caps at 2:45 of period two.  Shaone Morrisonn was beaten to the corner on the play.

Tyler Myers is feeling generous and makes a bad giveaway to the dangerous Alexander Semin.  Semin finds Backstrom who passes to Laich.  Laich is stoned by Ryan Miller who is not quite as giving as Tyler Myers.  Cody McCormick is throwing his weight around and so is Alexander Ovechkin, who lays a solid clean check on Steve Montador.  Jochen Hecht skates the puck into the zone and leaves it for Tim Connolly.  Connolly is stopped on a nice save by Neuvirth. 

Mike Green is tired and takes a holding penalty.  With Green in the box #9 Derek Roy gets #9 on the year, ripping home a one timer.  Great effort by Thomas Vanek to fight through two defensemen and get Roy the puck.  3-1 Caps 12:07 into the 2nd period.  Cody McCormick shoots the puck in and hits iron as Neuvirth is starting to appear vulnerable.

48 seconds later Jordan Leopold shows off his offensive game dropping into the slot and mopping up a rebound.  3-2 Caps at 12:55.  Shaone Morrisonn gets away with a trip on Ovechkin.  Ovechkin’s luck doesn’t get any better as he shoots the puck out and takes a delay of game penalty.  Nothing like a Sabres power play to kill momentum.  Arggggghhhh!!!  Sabres come up empty on the PP.

I’m watching on the Washington Capitals TV feed and their announcers win the award for giving out the most innocuous boring matter of fact nicknames ever.

1)    Jochen Hecht is ‘The Speedy German Center’ … Speedy, really?

2)    Tyler Myers is ‘6 foot 8 inch Tyler Myers’. 

3)    Mike Grier is ‘The Always Responsible Mike Grier’  This one’s my favorite.  It’s like they’re saying that Mike Grier never speeds or leaves the oven on.  That Mike Grier, He’s ‘Always responsible’!

The ‘Speedy German Center’ takes it the length of the rink before being driven into the end boards by Mike Green.  Derek Roy with a slapper from the left dot.  Neuvirth flashes glove with a nice save.  The Sabres have outshot the Caps 15-9 in period two but still trail 3-2 on the scoreboard.

Period Three:

Grier-Niedermayer-McCormick are out to start period 3.  Alexander Semin lets loose a shot from the point; Miller comes out to challenge and makes the stop.  There are many Sabres fans in attendance tonight as Blue & Gold sweaters dot the arena. 

A shoutout to Arturs Irbe, who is now the Caps goalie coach.  Good old Arturs Irbe with his silly goalie shield and old old old white goalie pads.  I think he made those pads himself. 

Jason Pominville has a golden opportunity on a pass from Connolly but shoots it into the net guarding the audience instead of the net guarded by Caps goaltender Michael Neuvirth.  Andrej Sekera lays a lick on Brooks Laich in the corner.  Matt Ellis takes a cross check behind the net.  I have to imagine that would have drawn a penalty if it were Semin or Ovechkin taking the same check from behind.  Life’s not fair.

The Caps work the puck around in open space and Mike Green unleashes a blast with Ovechkin waiting in front of Miller.  Miller says, ‘No Soup for you!’  The Caps are limiting Buffalo’s chances in period three as they protect a one goal margin.  Nicklas Backstrom makes a shifty wrap around but is met by Jason Pominville who lends an assist to Ryan Miller and keeps the Caps lead at one.  Derek Roy draws a tripping penalty in front and the Washington announcers passively accuse him of diving.  There are 8+ minutes left in the game; this would be a great time to tie things up here and get a point out of this road game.  The Sabres do their best getting sustained pressure with Connolly, Vanek and Pominville.  The 2nd unit has a few nice individual efforts from Hecht and Ennis, but Michael Neuvirth is having none of it as the Sabres fail to capitalize.

8 on 8 hockey! #8 Cody McCormick with a nice poke check on #8 Ovechkin.  Three minutes remain as the intensity wratchets up a notch.  Thomas Vanek slides a puck out front, Roy goes to the backhand while being tripped by Ovechkin and is robbed by Neuvirth. 

With Ryan Miller pulled, Alex Semin gets his 14th tally of the year on a rink long Empty net goal.  Game Over 4-2 Capitals win.   

The Sabres outshot the Caps 33-29 tonight. 

 

What I liked:

1)    Jochen Hecht showed up and had some good plays.  A rare sight these days.

2)    Steve Montador is playing confident and contributing on the offensive end as well as solidly defending in his own end.

3)    The Sabres fought until the end; getting several golden chances.  If it weren’t for goalie Michael Neuvirth stealing the show, the Sabres would have forced the game to OT.

4)    Buffalo did a good job of containing Ovechkin.  Ovechkin had no points and four shots.

What I didn’t like:

1)    Sabres unable to get any points out of the game.  Buffalo needs to get points in order to climb back into playoff position. 

2)    Miller looked a bit shaky at times.  He also looked great at times.  I’m not worried, but Miller did look less than elite.  In order to win games the Sabres need him to be elite.

3)    Paul Gaustad is doing his best invisible man impression.  I expect physical play and game changing hits from Gaustad.  It’s tough to change the game from the 4th line, but he’s not doing anything to justify being on a higher line.

 

The Sabres take on the Los Angeles Kings at HSBC Arena Friday at 7:30pm.