by Brian Wheeler
The Buffalo Sabres continue to find ways to win. Ales Kotalik scored with less than two minutes remaining in regulation to give Buffalo its first lead against the Washington Capitals since 7:57 of the first period, and ultimately, the game winner of a 6-4 victory over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night.
"They just never quit," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. "That's been the message all year. Battle through adversity, don't quit, and if we are dealt some tough cards in the game, make sure we give it everything we've got until the last whistle."
Buffalo trailed for much of the contest after giving up three goals in the first, but battled back with a pair of goals by Daniel Briere in the second and individual markers by Kotalik, Derek Roy
and Maxim Afinogenov in the third.
"Briere really took the bull by the horns after missing an assignment in the first," said Ruff. "He just said, 'I'm getting it back.' He got that one back, got another one right afterwards and setup the winning goal by (Kotalik). That's the type of character that will enable you to get back in and win hockey games."
"Washington's third goal was a missed assignment on my part and I totally blew it," said Briere of Ben Clymer's score with five seconds remaining in the first. "I felt like I let my teammates down and just had to find a way to get them back in the game."
Briere finished the contest with two pair, goals and assists, on his way to a four-point performance. In the last eight games, the center has recorded an astounding 16 points (5+11).
"He's small in stature but big when it comes to the role he plays on this team," said Ruff of Briere. "He's a guy that you need in key places at key times in the game, and most times, he'll give you something for it."
Afinogenov and Tim Connolly added a goal and an assist each, while Teppo Numminen registered two assists.
"We knew when we got in the third period and were only down by a goal that anything was possible and we starting believing," said Briere.
The term "offensive explosion" may not be strong enough to describe Buffalo's recent scoring surge. During the team's current seven-game winning streak, which ties a season high, the Sabres have out scored their opponents 38-22, including 17 goals in the second period.
"We knew we could do it," said Briere of coming back from a two-goal deficit. "We did it in Philadelphia a couple of days ago and against Boston. We knew we were all right. It was just a matter of waking up again and getting back in the game somehow."
After giving up three goals on nine shots during a shaky first, goaltender Ryan Miller
settled down and allowed just a single goal on next 24 shots. Miller finished the game with 29 saves.
"He had a tough two periods again and young goalies have to battle," commented Ruff on Miller's performance. "As the season goes on and down the stretch, there is more pressure. I think you have to learn to deal with that and learn to stay in a certain mindset.
"He really settled down and made three or four really good saves (in the third). Maybe that's the period that pushes him back in the right direction."
Buffalo opened the scoring just five minutes into game, converting on a ricocheted shot.
Teppo Numminen's offering from the point deflects off a Washington defenseman to Connolly directly in front of the net. The center from Syracuse, New York took two strides and slung the biscuit into the basket for his 11th of the season at 5:31.
On an odd-man rush less than two minutes later, Alex Ovechkin found Ben Clymer with an across-ice pass to even the score at 7:57.
Washington took its first lead of the game with Numminen spending time in the penalty box for interference.
With the man advantage, Ovechkin cut around Jason Pominville
at Buffalo's blueline and snapped a hard wristshot into the top-right corner of the net over Miller's glove for his 43rd goal of the season and his 19th on the man advantage.
Off the ensuing faceoff, Jeff Halpern rushed in on a breakaway, pulled the puck to his backhand and flipped a shot over a downed Miller to increase the Capitals lead to a pair of goals just eight seconds after Ovechkin's marker.
Buffalo entered the second trailing Washington 2-1 before Briere evened the score with his fourth and fifth goals in the last seven games.
Receiving a pass from Connolly behind the net, Briere circled around the front of the net and snapped a wristshot top shelf for his first goal of the night and 18th of the season at 3:52 of the second.
Briere's goal gave Buffalo's man-advantage unit, which ranked second in the league coming into the contest, goals in the last five games.
Two minutes later, Buffalo's top line would connect to tie the score 3-3. Skating along the boards, Jochen Hecht
found Briere cutting to the net with an across-ice pass for the center's second goal of the night. Both Hecht and JP Dumont recorded assists on Briere's 19th goal of the season.
The score would remain tied for almost 14 minutes until Clymer gave Washington with five seconds left in the second.
Following an interference penalty on Afinogenov, Clymer took a drop pass from Dainius Zubrus at the top of the left faceoff circle and ripped a shot into the shortside of the net make the score 4-3 at 19:55.
Roy snuck to the backdoor, received a feed from Maxim Afinogenov and stuffed his 15th goal of the season into the net to tie the game at 13:07 of the third.
The goal gives Roy 16 points in the Sabres last 13 games.
Kotalik gave Buffalo the 5-4 lead after Hecht fed the forward in the slot for a one-timer at 18:17.
Afinogenov capped off the night with an empty netter at 19:59.
------------------------------------ SCORING REPORTS
| Super Stats
| Faceoff Comp
| Play By Play
| Shift Chart GAME BLOG:
1-0 (5:31): Teppo Numminen's shot deflects to Tim Connolly directly in front of the net, where the center took two strides and slung the biscuit into the basket. The even-strength goal is Connolly's 11th of the season. With the lone helper, Numminen records his 35th assist of the season.
1-1 (7:57): On an odd-man rush, Alex Ovechkin found Ben Clymer with an across-ice pass to even the score. The goal is 13th goal of the season. Ovechkin and Chris Clark record the assists.
1-2 (19:11): With Numminen in the box for interference, Alex Ovechkin cut into the Buffalo zone and snapped a hard wristshot into the top-right corner of the net over Ryan Miller
's glove. The power-play goal is Ovechkin's 43rd of the season and his 19th on the man advantage. Dainius Zubrus and Clymer record the assists.
1-3 (19:19): Off the ensuing faceoff following Washington's second goal, Jeff Halpern rushed in on a breakaway, pulled the puck to his backhand and flipped it over a downed Ryan Miller
just eight seconds later. The goal is Halpern's fifth of the season. Ivan Majesky gets the lone helper. Period 2
2-3 (3:52): Daniel Briere received a pass from Tim Connolly behind the net, circled out front and snapped a wristshot topshelf for Buffalo's first power-play goal of the night. The marker is Briere's eighth on the man advantage and 18th of the season. Connnolly and Dmitri Kalinin record the assists.
3-3 (5:58): Less than two minutes later, Jochen Hecht
finds Daniel Briere cutting to the net for his second goal of the night and 19th of the season. Hecht and JP Dumont record the assists.
3-4 (19:55): Ben Clymer took a drop pass from Zubrus at the top of the left faceoff circle and ripped a shot into the shortside of the net with just five seconds remaining in the second. The power-play goal is Clymer's second of the game and 14th of the season. Zubrus and Ovechkin get the helpers. Period 3
4-4 (13;07): Derek Roy
sneaks to the backdoor, receives a feed from Maxim Afinogenov and stuffs his 15th goal of the season. The goal gives Roy 16 points in the Sabres last 13 games. Afinogenov and Numminen get the helpers.
5-4 (18:17): Ales Kotalik gave Buffalo the lead after Jochen Hecht
fed the forward in the slot for a one-timer and Buffalo first lead since 7:57 of the first period. The goal is Kotalik's 24th of the season. Hecht and Briere register the assists.
6-4 (19:59): Maxim Afinogenov added an empty netter for his 17th goal of the season. Daniel Briere and Toni Lydman get the assists.
Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres.