BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Exactly one week ago tonight, the Caps were thumped in Toronto, 7-1, falling to a team beset by injuries to key personnel. This evening, they set foot into First Niagara Center in Buffalo and laced up their skates against a Sabres team that was missing NINE of their NHL regulars, and promptly laid another egg. The end result was a 5-1 loss that had to taste as bad as week-old brussels sprouts; not easy to digest at all.
After a lackluster start Friday against the Rangers, most observers in the press box tonight figured the Caps would come out flying and take it to a team that was significantly undermanned. That would not be the case, as the Sabres joined together and produced a strong first 10 minutes. With multiple players on recall from AHL Rochester, Sabres Coach Lindy Ruff had to be pleased to see this group stay right with the Capitals, and then be downright giddy when they took a 2-0 lead.
Former AHL Rookie of the Year Luke Adam would net the first score on the night. It was the by-product of errant clearing attempt by Dennis Wideman. Widemans pass clicked off a skate and bounced right to Adam who was parked 10 feet in front of Tomas Vokoun. Given a gift, Luke made no mistake burying a quick shot on his forehand for the opening tally.
The second Sabre goal was one that really hurt. As a point shot floated towards Vokoun at the height of his shoulder, the goalie swatted at the puck with his catching glove. Unfortunately, the disc would bounce away from Tomas to a waiting Jason Pominville, who would deposit his 9th goal of the year.
The only ray of hope for the Caps on this night was provided by Jason Chimera in the second period. He raced clear from defender Christian Ehrhoff and, while carrying the puck in on his backhand, was tripped up by the Sabre blueliner. It was a close call, but Referee Justin St. Pierre ruled it a penalty shot. Chimera walked in on Jhonas Enroth and ripped a wrist shot over the goalies blocker that wound up getting stuck in the back of the net, hidden from all to see. It was as if Jason could make the puck disappear.
At that moment I felt like the Caps would catch fire and raise their level of play. My hopes were dashed 27 seconds later when another Sabres prospect, Zack Kassian, squirted a wrist shot through Vokouns pads for his first NHL goal.
I have enormous admiration for NHL goalies; I could only dream of being able to do what they do, which is why I am slow to criticize them. But in that instance your team needs a stop, and when they dont get it, Vokoun and his teammates had to be deflated.
That moment would be decisive for Buffalo. They tacked on two more goals in the third, which included another from Luke Adam who is a good-looking player with a powerful shot.
One day after I thought Alex Ovechkin skated extremely well against New York, he was not impressive tonight. Both he and Nick Backstrom were a ghastly minus-4 for the game. I was hoping Ovechkin would feast upon a Sabres defense that was very green in terms of NHL experience, but it wasnt to be.
The Capitals open a homestand Tuesday against St. Louis, another team that has an interesting compliment of forwards sure to challenge a team that is playing questionably in its defensive zone. Its time for the club to dig-in together at that end of the rink. Normally when they defend well, their offensive game clicks into gear. Lets hope so, because these types of losses are brutal on the stomach.
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