WASHINGTON (AP) - Daniel Briere has five goals and 11 assists in eight games since returning from a sports hernia injury after the Olympic break.
The Buffalo Sabres are 7-1 since the break. Their seven-game winning streak matches their longest of the season.
Coincidence? Of course not.
Briere had two goals and two assists Tuesday night in a 6-4 victory over the Washington Capitals, including an assist on Ales Kotalik's winner with 1:43 to play.
"When you take what was your best player out of the lineup for a long time, you start to wonder how it's going to work when he comes back," coach Lindy Ruff said.
"I think we've seen a good indication what it's done for our team, offensively, the creativeness that he brings. He's small in stature, but big when it comes to the role he plays on the team."
Briere, who missed 24 games before the break, scored twice in the second period to tie the game after Buffalo fell behind 3-1.
Tim Connolly scored a first-period goal, Derek Roy tied the score again with 6:53 remaining in the third, and Maxim Afinogenov added an empty-netter for the Sabres, who remained two points behind first-place Ottawa in the Northeast Division.
"It's not something we're looking forward to, to go down two goals, but we did it in Boston and we did it a few days ago in Philly," Briere said. "It's pretty impressive. For us, after the first period, it was just about trying to come back in the game - finding a way to get that first one. After that, we knew anything was possible."
The Sabres also were down 4-3 at the start of the third period, making this the eighth time this season they've won when trailing after two periods.
Roy tied the score early in the third on a power play, and Kotalik poked in his 24th goal of the season off Jochen Hecht's pass from behind the net. The puck ping-ponged in the crease between goaltender Brent Johnson and defenseman Shaone Morrisonn before going in.
"I was waiting for the shot, and then it deflected off a stick," said Johnson, who gave Olaf Kolzig a rare night off. "And as I was moving across, it hit Mo's skate and it went five hole. It was one of those things where I thought my stick was in the right place. Man, it's heartbreaking. These guys played an excellent game, a hard-fought game, everyone, both teams right down to the line. I would've liked to see it go into overtime and get a chance to win."
Rookie Alex Ovechkin scored his 43rd goal and had two assists for the Capitals, giving him 82 points on the season. He is the first rookie with 80 or more points since Mikael Renberg had 82 with Philadelphia in 1993-94.
Ovechkin emerged from a slump, at least by his standards. He had been held without a point for two straight games, and he's yet to have a three-game drought. The 20-year-old Russian again displayed his blistering speed when he found space on the left flank and beat goaltender Ryan Miller with a shot that hit the inside of the far post on a power play for the Capitals' second goal.
Ben Clymer had two goals and an assists, and Jeff Halpern scored for the Capitals, who won only two games of a five-game homestand.
Notes: Capitals C Brian Sutherby returned after missing one game with a lower-body injury. ... With their homestand over, the Capitals will play eight of their remaining 12 games on the road.
Other games on March 14, 2006