After finally earning their first point, the Washington Capitals believe they might be on the verge of ending the club's worst start in almost two decades.
In danger of opening 0-3 at home for the first time in 29 years, the Capitals continue the search for their first victory while trying to hand the visiting Buffalo Sabres a third consecutive defeat Sunday.
Though Washington (0-3-1) went winless in its first six games (0-3-1 with two ties) in 2000-01, it has not dropped five straight to open a season since going 0-6 in 1993-94. However, the Capitals are optimistic their current slide won't reach that point after showing some fight in Friday's 3-2 overtime loss at New Jersey.
Mike Ribeiro and Mike Green each scored third-period goals to help Washington rally from a 2-0 deficit. Despite being outshot 8-1 in the extra session before Ilya Kovalchuk netted the winner at 4:39, the Capitals feel they have plenty to build on.
"You have to take the positives," first-year Washington coach Adam Oates said. "The first question was you haven't played for 60 minutes. We did (Friday). There were a lot of growing pains, but the guys did their job. You obviously want the win but we did a lot of good things."
Though the Capitals are 1 for 12 on the power play over the last two games, they killed five of six penalties Friday and played better overall defense after half of the 14 goals they yielded in the first three contests came while a man down.
"I think we have a better idea after this game of how we can win," said Ribeiro, who has had a hand in four of the Capitals' eight goals.
Superstar Alex Ovechkin, meanwhile, remains mired in the worst start to his stellar career even after a move from right wing back to the left side. Ovechkin has recorded at least 32 goals in his first seven seasons but has one assist through four games.
He has four goals and three assists in his last six games versus Buffalo, but was held without a point when the Sabres snapped a five-game road skid against the Capitals with a 5-1 victory March 27.
While Washington tries to avoid starting 0-3 at home for the first time since 1983-84, Buffalo (2-2-0) hopes to get back on track by carrying over its series success after winning three of four last season.
The Sabres allowed three goals in starting 2-0, but gave up nine while being swept in a home-and-home with Carolina. One night after Jhonas Enroth was battered in a 6-3 loss at Carolina, Ryan Miller could not hold a 1-0 third-period lead in Friday's 3-1 defeat.
"You want to win these games or at least get to overtime," said Miller, who is 2-1-0 with a 1.67 goals-against average.
Miller snapped his own four-game road losing streak against the Capitals when he made a season-high 44 saves in March.
Buffalo's Thomas Vanek scored Friday to continue his hot start and tied a team record with nine points (three goals and six assists) in four games. However, Vanek was whistled for a costly cross-checking penalty with 2:09 left that ultimately led to Jeff Skinner's empty-net power-play goal.
"He's played awesome," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "But you can't let your frustration get the best of you. We need him out there, need him late."
Vanek has four goals and five assists in an eight-game point streak versus Washington.