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Ullmark returns with strong showing in shootout win over Capitals

Goalie makes 33 saves in 3-2 victory

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

Linus Ullmark waited almost six weeks to be back between the pipes in a game for the Buffalo Sabres after going down with a lower-body injury on Jan. 28. It was no vacation.

"[It was] quite boring, to be honest," Ullmark said. "You want to be with the team, you want to be in the mix, you want to be there and do what you do best."

It's fitting, then, that the goaltender saw plenty of excitement in his return on Monday. Ullmark stopped 33 of 35 shots in regulation and overtime and then made six more saves in a seven-round shootout to help the Sabres snap their six-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals.

Video: Kahun's SO winner helps Sabres defeat Capitals

The long shootout was icing on the cake for what had been a rollercoaster game. The Sabres saw their 2-0 lead evaporate in the third period and then had a potential go-ahead goal by Brandon Montour waved off due to goaltender interference, a call coach Ralph Krueger vehemently disagreed with afterward. 

It was Ullmark who ensured the game made it to overtime with a point-blank stop on Ilya Kovalchuk, who fired a one-timer from the edge of the crease with less than two minutes remaining. He stopped an Alex Ovechkin attempt from the slot in the final minute. 

Krueger has noted at points throughout the season that Ullmark has brought a calming presence to the ice, an observation Jeff Skinner shared after the game. 

"He was real good," Skinner said. "He made some big saves. I thought he had great, great rebound control, which is big, especially against this team. They got some skill guys and they got some guys that can roll around. They can create some sort of havoc in front of your net."

Video: POSTGAME: Krueger

He kept his cool in the shootout against a skilled Capitals lineup that featured three shooters with multiple goals in the skills competition this season: T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, and Ilya Kovalchuk. Ullmark stopped all three. 

The only Capital to score in the shootout was Evgeni Kuznetsov, who tied the score after Rasmus Dahlin put the Sabres ahead on their fourth attempt. Dominik Kahun beat Braden Holtby off his backhand to make it 2-1 in Round 7, then Ullmark sealed the win with a save on Richard Panik. 

Ullmark said he gave little thought to shooters tendencies, opting instead to keep it simple.

"Just take it penalty shot by penalty shot," he said. "There's nothing more to that."

The approach is working. Ullmark improved to 4-2 in his career in the shootout. His .840 save percentage ranks first and Sabres history and third among active goalies who have played a minimum of two shootouts. 

Beyond the shootout, it was a promising development for Ullmark to pick up where he left off prior to his injury. He had been a workhorse for the Sabres since November, posting a .914 save percentage while setting a career high with 16 wins. 

Ullmark let out an emotional fist pump following his save on Panik, which sealed win No. 17. Surely, it was the most fun he'd had in weeks. 

"Obviously you can't buy the feeling of winning," he said. "It was great to get the first win here."

 

Olofsson hits 20

Video: List of Sabres Rookie 20 Goal Scorers

Victor Olofsson put the Sabres on the board in the first period and became the 16th Sabres rookie to score 20 goals in a season. He's the first to reach the mark since Eichel and Sam Reinhart both did so during the 2015-16 season. 

The trio of Olofsson, Marcus Johansson, and Kahun built on the chemistry they first displayed against Philadelphia on Saturday. All three players got a touch on a tic-tac-toe passing play that resulted in a scoring chance for Kahun on a rush led by Dahlin. Kahun was stopped by Holtby, but Colin Miller kep the puck in at the blue line and got it back to Dahlin.

Dahlin made a crafty pass to feed Johansson as he skated toward the slot. Johansson fed Olofsson, who picked the near-side corner. 

Video: WSH@BUF: Olofsson roofs wrister home from the circle

 

Eichel gets on the board

Dahlin fed Eichel for a power-play goal to make it 2-0 just 53 seconds into the second period. The goal snapped a seven-game stretch without a point from the Sabres captain and a 0-for-17 run on the power play. 

"We're continuing to work on our game, we're continuing to add value to the process which is what we want to do here and Jack, of course, is at the lead of that," Krueger said. "Just looked a lot more comfortable today and I think he's let go of some of that pressure that he was feeling and he's sharing it with the team and as a result just a really strong game from him today."

 

Upon further review

Krueger expressed his discontent with the referees' decision to wave off Montour's goal, which would have given the Sabres a 3-2 lead with 2:48 remaining. The goalie interference was called against Skinner, who Krueger felt was pushed into the pad of Washington's Braden Holtby. 

The play wasn't reviewed because it wasn't called a goal on the ice. And, after seeing a challenge for what he believed to be obvious goaltender interference go unsuccessful against Pittsburgh last Thursday, Krueger wasn't willing to challenge and risk taking a minor penalty so late in the game.

"It was very frustrating to experience," Krueger said. "We went through that with Pittsburgh just a few days ago the other way and I think when something is outside the crease like that and it's questionable, there shouldn't be a call on the ice. It should be called a goal and then they can go review it or not because it was a very, very, very soft, questionable call. We just don't know what to call and not call."

 

Up next

The Sabres visit the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. Coverage on MSG begins at 6:30 p.m. or you can listen to the game on WGR 550. Puck drop is scheduled for 7.

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