WASHINGTON - Cody Hodgson decided a lacklustre game with the only goal in the shootout, and the Buffalo Sabres avoided matching the longest road losing streak in franchise history with a 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals on Sunday.
Hodgson, returning after missing eight games with a hand injury, beat Philipp Grubauer in a skills contest that mirrored the rest of the game — not many quality chances, hardly any pucks in the net.
Jason Chimera also scored in the opening period, and Grubauer made 30 saves for the Capitals, who have lost five of seven.
NHL rules require that every game have a winner, which seemed a generous gesture in a game in which both teams played as if they were already on the Olympic break. The mascots who played a mini-game during the first intermission generated more riveting scoring chances than the Capitals and Sabres did for long stretches of the second and third periods.
The Sabres put the puck in the net twice in the first period — once for themselves and once for the Capitals. Brian Flynn, trying to stop a pass from Chimera to Marcus Johansson, got his stick on the puck and directed it past his own goalie to give Washington the early lead. Chimera was given credit for the goal.
Ennis tied it late in the period on a power play when he gathered a loose puck in front of the crease and backhanded it in.
There was one save that wowed the crowd, when Miller reached right with his stick to deflect Mikhail Grabovski's point-blank shot with just over 2 minutes remaining in the third.
Then, with 53 seconds left in regulation, Karl Alnzer put the puck in the net for the Capitals, but the goal didn't count because Nicklas Backstrom had tripped Hodgson to give Alzner the clear shot. The Sabres were given a power play that carried into overtime.
The Sabres welcomed back Hodgson and Ville Leino, who had been out for three games with a lower body injury. Not on the ice was prospect Mikhail Grigorenko, who is refusing to accept an assignment to the juniors.
The Sabres, sitting at the bottom of the NHL standings with by far the fewest goals scored in the league, are trying to steady themselves during a period of upheaval. Sunday's game was the second under new general manager Tim Murphy and the 24th under interim coach Ted Nolan.
NOTES: Washington D Connor Carrick got his first NHL assist on Chimera's goal. ... A blue tarp hung in the rafters at the Verizon Center, one day after a Washington Wizards NBA game was delayed twice because of a leak in the roof. There were no such weather delays Sunday.
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