Kuznetsov lifts Capitals past Sabres in shootout

Joe Yerdon  - Correspondent | Monday, 03.16.2015 / 11:38 PM

BUFFALO – Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov has a knack for coming up big in Buffalo.

Kuznetsov scored a goal in regulation and in the shootout, and Braden Holtby stopped all three shooters to help give the Capitals a 4-3 win against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center on Monday.

Kuznetsov was the only player to score in the shootout. He skated in slowly against Sabres goalie Anders Lindback and took a low wrist shot to beat him and give the Capitals their second consecutive win.

"This shootout is like poker," Kuznetsov said. "If you don't have a card, you'll never win. If you have a lucky win, it's all about luck."

Kuznetsov had eight shots on goal, one fewer than Alexander Ovechkin’s game-high nine, and gave the Capitals a 3-2 lead 5:55 into the third period with his eighth goal.

"That’s what [Ovechkin] yells at me every day, they tell me if I want to score I have to shoot and I don’t know, maybe I feel something in this building," Kuznetsov said. "It’s a lucky building for me. A few years ago, yeah, and I wanted to score here… [Ovechkin]’s not yelling at me, he’s teaching me and I accept this one, I like this one. I like when teachers teach me good stuff."

Kuznetsov won the gold medal for Russia at the 2011 World Junior Championships in Buffalo and had three assists in the gold medal game against Canada, a 5-3 come from behind victory.

"He’s got a really good release and we want him to shoot more," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "The odd time that he holds on too long, goaltenders are too good ... but he’s learning. He’s had a great tournament in this building, this is his building. When he was in the world juniors here, he was fantastic in the world juniors, so he’s got a lot of good mojo in this building."

Shooting more is something Kuznetsov has done recently. In his past four games he has 17 shots on goal and has two goals and two assists.

"He's putting himself in the areas to shoot the puck too as opposed to the perimeter and wheeling around he's maybe cutting to the middle or putting it in a d-man's skates and trying to shoot it through, kind of like [Ovechkin] does," Capitals defenseman Mike Green said. "It's worked out for him well the last few games."

Matt Niskanen had the lone assist on Kuznetsov’s power-play goal. Niskanen led all scorers with two points.

Washington (38-23-10) is four points ahead of the Boston Bruins for the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

Buffalo (19-43-7) has lost seven straight games.

Holtby made 30 saves for the Capitals and made his second start in two nights. He had a 32-save shutout in a 2-0 win against the Bruins on Sunday.

"It wasn't pretty by any means for any of us," Holtby said. "It was one of those games I think it may have been an emotional letdown after last game with Boston. It's our fault for not getting up enough. But you have to give that team credit. They earned everything they got tonight. You look at that team how they played tonight; you would never believe their record. You've got to give them a lot of credit to earn that point."

Sabres forward Johan Larsson tied the game 3-3 with his fourth goal. Larsson tipped a shot from the faceoff circle by defenseman Chad Ruhwedel past Holtby. Ruhwedel was recalled from Rochester of the American Hockey League on Monday because of injuries to defensemen Zach Bogosian and Andrej Meszaros. Larsson has five points in the past four games.

"I think we’ve known what [Larsson] can do for a long time," Sabres defenseman Mike Weber said. "He’s really just showing everyone what he can do. He’s a bulldog out there. He’s hard to play against, he’s strong on the puck."

The Capitals won the game, but it was the Sabres who got out ahead in the first period. Buffalo outshot Washington 15-11 and held a 2-1 lead after Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson scored.

Ennis’ goal 5:02 into the first came on a give-and-go with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen on the power play. It’s the 10th time in the past 12 games the Sabres have scored the first goal.

"It was a really good effort," Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. "Tyler has a little luck on that power play, he made a heck of a move. Skills competition at the end. So I’m quite pleased with the way we played."

Curtis Glencross tied the game 1-1 with his 13th goal at 9:23 of the first. Glencross’ fourth goal with the Capitals came on the power play when he put a rebound of Niskanen’s shot from the point past Lindback.

"He's one of those guys that has a knack around the net and he does the right things at the right time," Green said. "Every time he's on the ice he has a good stick, he's picking passes off. He goes to the right spots in front of the net. It's sort of difficult to do at times, especially with how defensemen box out, but he seems to get there."

Hodgson made it 2-1 with his fifth goal 45 seconds later after his backhand shot bounced off Holtby’s upper arm into the air over his head and into the goal.

Green tied the game 2-2 with his sixth goal 6:09 into the second period. He received a pass from Marcus Johansson and took a slap shot from the faceoff circle that got past Lindback who was out of position.

"There was no panic in the dressing room here," Green said. "We knew that if we stuck to our game and our structure, we'd come out with a point at least. I thought that we managed the game well and that's something that we take pride in and want to do each night. I thought it was a great job by everybody, especially Holtby."

Lindback finished with 35 saves.

"A lot of people might think we’re playing for nothing, but you’re playing for pride out there, you’re playing for the crest on the sweater, and again, you’re playing for jobs," Weber said. "I thought it was a heck of an effort out of our team tonight."

Scoring Summary
1st Period
05:02BUF PPG - Tyler Ennis (18) ASST: Rasmus Ristolainen (8), Brian Gionta (13) 1 - 0 BUF
09:23WSH PPG - Curtis Glencross (13) ASST: Joel Ward (14), Matt Niskanen (19) 1 - 1 Tie
10:08BUF Cody Hodgson (5) ASST: Tim Schaller (1) 2 - 1 BUF
2nd Period
06:09WSH Mike Green (6) ASST: Marcus Johansson (22), Brooks Laich (10) 2 - 2 Tie
3rd Period
05:55WSH PPG - Evgeny Kuznetsov (8) ASST: Matt Niskanen (20) 3 - 2 WSH
13:50BUF Johan Larsson (4) ASST: Chad Ruhwedel (1), Matt Moulson (24) 3 - 3 Tie
OT Period
1BUFTyler Ennis - Save
2WSHEvgeny Kuznetsov - Goal
3BUFMatt Moulson - Save
4WSHNicklas Backstrom - Save
5BUFPhilip Varone - Missed
Shootout Summary
RNDBuffalo SabresWashington Capitals
1Tyler EnnisEvgeny Kuznetsov
2Matt MoulsonNicklas Backstrom
3Philip Varone
Three Stars of the Game
Johan Larsson
G: 1Shots: 4
A: 0Hits: 1
PTS: 1PIM: 0
+/-: 1TOI: 23:10
Tyler Ennis
G: 1Shots: 4
A: 0Hits: 0
PTS: 1PIM: 0
+/-: 1TOI: 23:22
Evgeny Kuznetsov
G: 1Shots: 8
A: 0Hits: 1
PTS: 1PIM: 0
+/-: 0TOI: 18:07
Penalty Summary
1st Period
03:28BUF Mike Weber  Roughing against  Alex Ovechkin
03:28WSH Alex Ovechkin  Roughing against  Mike Weber
03:28WSH Alex Ovechkin  Roughing against  Mike Weber
07:36BUF Jerry D'Amigo  Hooking against  Eric Fehr
2nd Period
01:50WSH Eric Fehr  Holding against  Philip Varone
3rd Period
04:10BUF Nikita Zadorov  Delaying the game
09:49WSH Troy Brouwer  Tripping against  Nikita Zadorov
OT Period
shots by period
Team Stats
Power Plays2/21/3
Faceoff Wins2731
Blocked Shots926
Penalty Minutes86
2M. NiskanenD02-10026:00
6T. GleasonD0010013:34
8A. OvechkinL0009422:30
16E. FehrC00-10211:06
19N. BackstromC0003022:58
20T. BrouwerR0002218:15
21B. LaichC0102012:14
22C. GlencrossL1002018:23
23C. ConnerR0011010:06
25J. ChimeraL00-20011:16
27K. AlznerD00-11023:49
42J. WardR01-21012:45
43T. WilsonR0001012:24
52M. GreenD1013021:57
74J. CarlsonD00-15026:16
88N. SchmidtD00-10014:52
90M. JohanssonL0110017:54
92E. KuznetsovC1008018:07
70B. Holtby3033.90965:00
5C. RuhwedelD0120013:13
6M. WeberD0001226:39
12B. GiontaR0104023:59
19C. HodgsonC1017014:48
20Z. DalpeC00-1004:35
22J. LarssonL1014023:10
24T. StrachanD00-10022:31
26M. MoulsonL0114020:39
37M. EllisL00-1204:02
44N. DeslauriersL0010016:21
49J. D'AmigoR00-1025:13
51N. ZadorovD0021213:53
55R. RistolainenD0102028:11
59T. SchallerC0111014:43
61A. BenoitD00-12020:58
63T. EnnisC1014023:22
82M. FolignoL0001020:34
84P. VaroneC0000019:52
35A. Lindback3538.92164:45