The Buffalo Sabres seven-game winning streak at the Verizon Center came to a screeching halt on Saturday night. In a wild affair, Buffalo was outworked in the opening 40 minutes of play, and ultimately, fell 7-4 at the hands of the Washington Capitals.
Opening the game with a three-goal burst in the first seven minutes of play, Washington held a minimum two-goal lead throughout the entire game. Buffalo cut the lead to 6-4 with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation, but couldn't close the gap.
"We kept coming back, but we kept making that one mistake that dug us a bigger hole," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. "It was a game we really felt we could have had if we could have tightened things up."
Buffalo began the night with a short bench, as Jaroslav Spacek was absent from the lineup due to injury. Spacek's foot swelled to the point where he couldn't put a skate on after being struck by a shot on Friday night against the New York Rangers.
Instead of recalling a rookie defenseman from the Rochester Americans, Buffalo dressed just five defensemen and activated center Derek Roy, who had been sidelined with a wrist injury since November 15. Roy registered Buffalo's first goal of the night at 15:09 - his fourth of the season - as Olaf Kolzig misplayed a puck into his own net.
The bench got even shorter when three players - Paul Gaustad and Adam Mair - were assessed game misconducts in the second period after a dangerous check by Alex Ovechkin on Daniel Briere sparked some hostility.
Skating to the bench for a line change, Briere was launched headfirst into the boards when Ovechkin checked the Sabres co-captain from behind. Gaustad dropped his gloves to defend Briere, while Mair tussled with Bryan Muir. Ovechkin was also ejected from the match.
Each was whistled with not only a five-minute fighting penalty and a game misconduct, but each received an instigator penalty as well.
"We don't want those types of hits in the game," said Ruff. "If [Washington] looked at it through their eyes, they wouldn't want to see Ovechkin run from behind a couple of seconds late. If you knock a Briere or an Ovechkin out of the lineup with a hit like that, you're losing one of your elite players in the league.
"I definitely think that it's something that needs to be looked at, and in my eyes, there should be some type of disciplinary action because we don't need that in the game."
Following the game, Briere expressed some soreness in his neck from the collision in the first period. Briere finished with a minus-two rating after playing more than 21 minutes.
"We were fortunate that he didn't hit the open door or else there could have been serious damage," said Ruff. "He's going to be ok, but it's a situation that looked really dangerous."
A total of 28 penalties for 117 minutes were assessed to the two teams. Buffalo finished one-of-six with the man advantage, while Washington was held scoreless on seven opportunities.
"I like the way we reacted to that play," said Ruff of the controversial hit. "I don't care if Gaustad gets kicked out of a game for doing what he did. He needed to do what he did and Mair's going to be right there behind him."
Ryan Miller was chased from Buffalo net in the first period after stopping six-of-nine shots. The remainder of the game, Martin Biron allowed three goals on 18 shots.
The loss is Buffalo's first during regulation since November 18 and comes in the first of four meetings between the two teams this season. The next is scheduled for December 26 in HSBC Arena. -------------------------------------------------------- Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres. -------------------------------------------------------- SCORING SHEETS Game Summary | Super Stats | Face-offs | Play-by-Play | Shift Chart