Simply put the Sabres have only had 5 or more goals scored against them three other times this season. Further when you find yourself up by two goals against Ryan Miller and the Sabres, two things necessarily happen, you know you need to tighten up your defensive play as the Sabres and Miller will likely tighten up theirs and they will come at you. That's just what happened and because of it the second period was the crux of the hockey game and when it was over the Caps were still up 3-2. The Caps did score only one goal in the second but what a "sick" goal it was. Brendan Morrison broke his goal scoring slump in fine fashion with a totally awesome wrist shot after pulling the puck back to himself to create just enough room from within 10 feet of the goal to put a nifty wrister past Ryan Miller with his stick between his legs to put the Caps up 3-1 at the 10:48 mark of the second stanza. Before that Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green had both scored for the Capitals in the first period and Paul Gaustad of the Sabres got his 7th tally of the year at 5:04 of the second period to make it a 2-1 game. Morrison's goal made sure the Capitals would never trail in this game though.
The third period was pretty well owned by the Capitals despite the fact the Sabres managed to get off 10 shots on Michael Neuvirth to the 9 the Caps laid on Ryan Miller. Neuvy had a very good night stopping 32 of 34 shots for a 0.941 SV% on the night and was only victimized on two very good scoring chances and second/third shots by the Sabres. As far as executing their keys to success the Caps did and the Sabres did not and that's the story of the night. The Caps had two power play chances - a 5 on 3 and a 5 on 4 and they converted on both against a very solid penalty killing unit. The Sabres had three opportunities and a total of 4:00 with a man advantage and were held scoreless on the power play.
As far as executing their keys to success: 1) The Sabres needed disrupt the Caps offensive unit and keep the "Young Guns" especially Alexander Ovechkin in check. The four young guns and Tomas Fleischmann totalled 4 goals and 10 points tonight; Ovechkin had a goal and two assists for 3 points; Backstrom had two goals; Semin had two assists; Green had a goal and an assist for two points and "Flash" had an assist. 2) The Sabres needed to pressure Neuvirth early; they only got 4 shots on goal in the entire first period. 3) The Sabres needed to out work and out hit the Caps; for the full sixty minutes the Sabres had 16 hits to the Caps 21. Basically, the Sabres were "0 for 3" on those items. Relative to key players tonight, for the Sabres needed a solid night from Ryan Miller, they didn't really get it. Miller stopped 33 of 38 and had a SV% of 0.868, hardly a stellar night for the American Born All Star. Tim Connolly - the 28 year old veteran center had a goal and was +2 on the night, as good an outing or better than any other Sabre on the night. Tyler Myers and Henrik Tallinder both went -1 on the evening and though Myers had 4 hits and 2 blocked shots on the evening I believe he himself would not characterize this as a good night since in addition to being on the ice for Morrison's even strength goal he was also on the ice for Backstrom's second goal of the evening - a power play tally.
The Caps keys to success were 1) Play disciplined hockey and stay out of the sin bin, the Caps pretty much did that they gave the Sabres a man advantage one in the first period and twice in the second period but were penalty free in the third period. 2) Create traffic and get some scrappy goals, the Caps did that, of the 5 Caps goals only Mike Green's was beyond the faceoff circle and on all the other Caps goals besides Morrison's there was traffic in front or around the net, on two occasions Ovechkin's power play goal and Green's that traffic was Brooks Laich; on Backstrom's first goal it was provided by Alexander Semin and on Backy's second goal the traffic was provided by OV. 3) Responsible two way play and a deep backcheck - the Caps definitely did this the few times they were really challenged in the first and third periods and other then the sequence that led up to Tim Connolly's goal they did it often and deep enough in the second period as well. As far as talking about key players and needed results the only place the Caps did not dominate tonight was the faceoff circle but the rest of the execution areas were very solid and Ovechkin, Neuvirth, Backstrom, Morrison and Steckel all had outstanding nights.
That's why the game ended with a score Caps 5 - Sabres 2. Next up the New Jersey Devils, Saturday evening at home here in DC.
LETS GO CAPS!!!!