|Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller made 30 saves as the Sabres won their season-high fifth straight game with a 3-1 win over the Washington Capitals.
But on Monday night, the last line of defense was simply too much for the Caps.
Ryan Miller stopped 30 of 31 shots, while Jochen Hecht notched two goals and an assist as the Buffalo Sabres won their fifth straight game with a 3-1 victory at the Verizon Center. The win also put Buffalo over the .500 mark at 11-10-1.
“I think the guys have done a good job of back-checking,” Miller said. “That’s been a big help to our defense. Ovechkin just really had that one dangerous opportunity, and he made it count. That’s what you have to do to teams that have a lot of skill.”
After getting off to a rough start – the Sabres began the 2007-08 campaign with just three wins in their first eight games – the bounces are beginning to go in Buffalo’s favor. The Sabres will look to make it six in a row on Wednesday night, when they’ll host the St. Louis Blues.
''Finally things seem to go our way,'' Hecht said. ''Before, we were trying to make those pretty plays -- through the legs, through the skates -- and it just didn't work for us. It seems like those are the goals that are more common in the league ... odd bounces.''
Hecht gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead at the 10:55 mark of the opening period ( 700K ) – thanks to an odd bounce. The Sabres’ forward tried to send a pass across the crease, but it deflected off a leg or skate in front and past Caps goalie Olaf Kolzig. The goal was originally credited to Michael Ryan, but officials changed it later.
Alexander Ovechkin extended his point streak to nine games when he tied the game just 49 seconds into the second period ( 700K ). It was the lone shot to get past Miller, who made an initial save on one of the league’s premier players before Ovechkin fired home his own rebound to make it 1-1. It was his 17th goal of the season.
Hecht put the Sabres back on top with his second tally of the night at the 8:07 mark of the second, when he took a pass from Daniel Paille and lifted a shot over Kolzig to make it 2-1. Jason Pominville made it a two-goal game just 3:40 later, when he took a pass from Hecht before beating Kolzig to make it 3-1.
Hecht nearly notched a hat trick, but was robbed by Kolzig in the third period on a point-blank chance.
"We had two or three games before (the streak) we deserved to win; we did everything but win," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "We out-played, we outshot and we got nothing for it. (But) we got a couple of bounces to start the streak and ever since then, guys have kind of lightened up and played even better."
While the Capitals came out on the losing end, they continue to apply pressure in the offensive end. Washington went 0-for-3 on the power play against Miller, who improved to 6-1 lifetime against the Capitals.
"We played with energy," Boudreau said. "We played as hard as (Buffalo) and as good as them, just not as smart as them. You can't have turnovers against a great transition team in the neutral zones and both goals cost us."
Kolzig agreed. While things seem to be improving, the Capitals’ netminder realizes his team needs to string victories together if it hopes to get back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
“We have to put a streak together to get ourselves out of this hole,” Kolzig said.
“Basically, we’re one game over .500 since the coaching change. I think we played well, and it’s things that we can control. We turn the puck over. I have no satisfaction in the fact that we only gave up three goals. The bottom line is we lost.”
Material from wire services and team websites was used in this report.