Sabres "Evil" once again
BUFFALO, N.Y. --- The Buffalo Sabres defeated the Washington Capitals 7-4 at KeyBank Center in their black and red "Goathead" jerseys. Buffalo posted 12 different names on the point sheet in their first game back in Buffalo since February 11. Dylan Cozens led the team with a hat trick and an assist. Jack Quinn notched two assists in his debut in the first line. Alex Tuch was not with the squad following the announcement of a week to week lower body injury in the morning prior to the game. Rasmus Dahlin was also out, as a scratch with a day to day injury. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was between the pipes for Buffalo, he posted 26 saves on 30 shots.
In the first period both teams seemed to be creating chances but neither could find the back of the net, whether it be defensive stops or keeper saves. Just over half way through the first period Casey Mittelstadt broke into the offensive zone and set up a streaking Dylan Cozens who hit the snapshot and gave Buffalo an early 1-0 lead. A few minutes later it was a tied game as Nick Jensen sent in a pass to a wide open Dylan Strome on the crease, scoring over Luukkonen's leg pad.
Just as quick as Buffalo lost their lead, they gained it back, a flagrant pass from Washington into their own slot fell perfectly to the stick of Tage Thompson. His 40th goal of the season, placing him 3rd in the NHL. 25 seconds later the same trio that scored the Capitals first goal scored a second, this time T.J. Oshie finished the pass from Strome and Jensen. The teams went into the break tied at two a piece.
The Sabres came out with a fire in the second period, first capitalized on just before the six minute mark. Quinn sent a shot in on Kuemper who made the deflection save. Mattias Samuelsson corralled the puck and got it to Jeff Skinner who found an angle past Kuemper's skate and into the back of the net. The Sabres next goal came from their fourth line just three minutes later, Tyson Jost found the pass to Kyle Okposo in the slot and he teed up Zemgus Girgensons for the easy goal on the crease.
Buffalo kept rolling as they found three one time passes in the offensive zone to set up Vinnie Hinostroza to score on the backhand in his first game back with the Sabres after spending some time in Rochester. That was the end of the day for Darcy Kuemper, Charlie Lindgren came in. Three more minutes and Buffalo had their sixth goal of the game just 13 minutes into the second period. Jack Quinn was breaking into the offensive zone, Dylan Cozens called for the pass from the defensive zone.
"I heard him way back... I knew he would be skating as hard as he could to get up the ice. So I just tried to make it look like I was going to my right side instead of left and threw it over there. It was a bit of a no look, I guess a little lucky it went right on his tape I was just trying to put it in his area and it worked well," Quinn said
The pass "worked well" indeed as Cozens flew in and caught the puck on his back hand, flipped to his forehand and scored the wrister past Lindgren. As the period was winding down Alex Ovechkin generated some momentum for the capitals off a rebounded puck while Luukkonen was laid out. Before the period could end Sonny Milano stole a back pass from a Sabres forward and found himself in on goal, capitalizing on the forehand waiting out Luukkonen. Buffalo now carried a two goal lead into the second intermission, the most dangerous lead in hockey.
Buffalo came out looking to seal their victory with another goal and applied significant pressure through the opening minutes. The Capitals put in a fight but eventually Buffalo sealed the deal. With eight minutes to go, who else other than Dylan Cozens on the backhand, sealing his hat trick and the Sabres win.
Buffalo move to 31-23-4 and sit in the third place wild card slot behind Pittsburgh and New York. They will next host Columbus on Tuesday February 28.