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game recap

Sabres, Tokarski defeat Capitals, spoil Backstrom's 1,000th NHL game

Buffalo gives goalie first win since 2015; center has assist reaching milestone

by Harvey Valentine / Independent Correspondent

Mittelstadt buries a SHG

BUF@WSH: Mittelstadt rips home a short handed goal

Casey Mittelstadt gets sent on a break and fires a shot into twine for a short handed goal, extending the Sabres lead to 3-1 in the 2nd period

  • 00:35 •

WASHINGTON -- Dustin Tokarski made 27 saves for his first NHL win since 2015, and the Buffalo Sabres spoiled Nicklas Backstrom's 1,000th game with a 5-2 win against the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena on Thursday.

Anders Bjork had a goal and an assist in his second game with the Sabres (11-25-7), who have a point in eight of their past 10 (5-2-3).

"Real credit to our entire team," Sabres coach Don Granato said. "We limited them in quality chances. We limited their shot selection and [Tokarski] stood tall for us. Lot of fun. Lot of fun when you see guys work that hard and get rewarded for it."

Video: BUF@WSH: Bjork rips a one-timer that finds the twine

Backstrom had an assist, and Anthony Mantha scored his second goal in as many games with the Capitals (28-12-4), who had won three straight. Vitek Vanecek was pulled after allowing four goals on 21 shots. Craig Anderson made eight saves in relief.

"I think we were lacking a little bit of compete level and poor decision-making at times just cost us today," Washington forward Lars Eller said.

The Capitals remained in first place in the eight-team MassMutual East Division, two points ahead of the New York Islanders, who lost to the Boston Bruins 4-1.

Tokarski's last win was Dec. 12, 2015, when he made 25 saves for the Montreal Canadiens to defeat the Ottawa Senators 3-1. He pointed to the rafters when the final horn sounded and his teammates came to congratulate him.

"It's pretty incredible, to be honest," the 31-year-old said. "I lost my dad a few years back, so that was the first NHL win since he's passed, so I was just pointing up to him for that special moment. And then all the guys were just awesome coming in. There's nothing better for a goalie than celebrating with your teammates after a win."

The Sabres took a 1-0 lead at 18:50 of the first period when Dylan Cozens' shot from the point was deflected midair by Reinhart.

Dmitry Orlov tied it 1-1 at 19:37. After Tokarski saved Orlov's shot from the point, T.J. Oshie controlled the rebound and passed back to the defenseman.

Victor Olofsson gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead at 1:36 of the second period when he stole an errant pass near the Capitals blue line and scored with a wrist shot from the right circle.

Washington turned over the puck 15 times.

"Turnovers played a huge factor in it," Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. "A lot of times you turn the puck over because you're not moving the way you're capable of moving. Your strides, you're on your toes, and they were on their toes tonight. They were forcing the issue."

The lead was 3-1 after Casey Mittelstadt came in on a break and beat Vanecek for a shorthanded goal at 5:42.

"'Bjorky' made a nice play, just tipped it up to me," Mittelstadt said. "I actually kind of thought Bjorky would be with me, so I slowed down and looked back a little bit and he wasn't there. It was one of those plays where it almost happened so quick, and you just look up and see a little bit of netting and just fire it, and sometimes it works out better than when you're thinking about it and looking for a longer time."

The Capitals got within 3-2 during a delayed penalty when Mantha shoveled a cross-ice feed from John Carlson past Tokarski at 9:59. Mantha was traded by the Detroit Red Wings on Monday and had a goal and an assist in his Capitals debut Tuesday, a 6-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Video: BUF@WSH: Mantha scores on a redirection in front

Bjork made it 4-2 with a one-timer from the left circle at 13:23. The forward was acquired Monday in a trade with the Boston Bruins for Taylor Hall.

Anderson replaced Vanecek after the goal.

"The score is what it is at that point," Laviolette said. "I don't think we were very good in front of our goaltender, so I made a change."

Tage Thompson scored an empty-net goal at 19:17 of the third period to make it 5-2.

NOTES: Sabres forward Kyle Okposo left the game after getting hit in the face with a puck off the stick of teammate Matt Irwin at 9:27 of the first period. Granato said he'll be examined Friday. ... The Capitals finished the season 6-1-1 against the Sabres. ... Oshie has a five-game point streak (three goals, five assists). ... Backstrom is the second player with 1,000 games for the Capitals (Alex Ovechkin, 1,192). Backstrom is the 69th NHL player, 14th active, to play 1,000 games with one team. The Capitals are 592-297-111 with Backstrom in the lineup since his NHL debut Oct. 5, 2007. ... Tokarski and Carter Hutton each have one win for Buffalo. Linus Ullmark has their other nine. ... Tokarski was 0-6-2 in 10 games since his last NHL win, including 0-4-2 this season. He is 11-16-7 with a 2.83 goals-against average and .905 save percentage in 41 NHL games (32 starts) for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks and Sabres.

Video: Tokarski stops 27 of 29 in a 5-2 win over Capitals

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