Nineteen seconds, one goal. (Photo credit: Greg Fiume)
The Washington Capitals and Buffalo Sabres are neck-and-neck in a battle for playoff position. The Caps are just one point behind the Sabres as the lockout shortened regular season begins to come to a close. One problem, though: the spot they’re fighting for is 13th place in the Eastern Conference.
This season has been pretty abhorrent for fans in Buffalo and Washington. The Caps, however, still have time to salvage this year. Playing in hockey’s weakest division, the Caps came into Sunday’s game nine points out the the Southeast-leading Winnipeg Jets with 21 games left to play. But if Washington want to be playing hockey in May, that drive has to start now. Maybe it did. Thirty hours after the start of their deflating but fight filled 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins, Washington showed no St. Patrick’s Day hangover (I’m sorry).
Caps beat Sabres 5-3.
Nineteen seconds into Sunday’s game, Alex Ovechkin unleashed a quick wrist shot off the draw. His goal from the slot was the fastest tally to start a game for the Caps this season, putting a some life into an otherwise late arriving and somewhat inebriated Verizon Center crowd. They went back to sleep during the rest the lazy first period.
Speaking of asleep, Braden Holtby was the next tally. Just 12 seconds into the second frame, Holts let in a weak marker from Cody Hodgson from the circles. We’ll forgive him because he’s pretty good sometimes.
A little less than five minutes after Buffalo’s goal, the Caps pulled ahead once again. With the Sabres Tyler Myers in the box for holding, Troy Brouwer fired a shot past Ryan Miller. The marker was set up by a delicious pass from behind the goal line by Mike Ribeiro. Ribz backhanded it through the legs off a Buffalo defender to Brouwer, who was waiting at the hashmarks. It was pretty.
A few minutes later, it was Jason Chimera‘s turn. Yes, Jason freaking Chimera! Chimmer snapped a 486 year — err — 27 game goalless streak with his tally. Logically, this means Peter was entirely at fault for the dearth goals from #25. He should stay at that Drive By Truckers concert where he belongs. Forever. Seriously, Peter, don’t leave Rams Head. Not if you care about our oft-screaming bald brother.
Anyway, less than a minute after Chimera’s first of the century, another player who has struggled this season got on the board. Marcus Johansson executed an expert poke of the puck while Miller was playing beached whale, putting the Caps up 4-1.
The goal crazy second period continued when Washington’s defense completely disappeared for a play, leaving Buffalo’s Brian Flynn wide open in front of the crease as if he had an infectious disease. Flynn took the pass out of the corner from Marcus Foligno and popped it past Holtby. 4-2 after two.
The third period got off to a slow start, in that it didn’t start. With some of the lights out at Verizon Center, the beginning of the period was delayed for a few minutes. Despite the outage, the game finally got going again — albeit with a yellower hue.
With the lights finally came back to full power, Buffalo got within one when Hodgson put a rebound off Holtby’s left pad right back where it came from for his second goal of the game.
In the waining minutes of the game, Mathieu Perreault got on the board with a beautiful goal that would make Ovechkin jealous — all alone and with a lot of weaving. Wings for everybody and two standings points!
The Caps have a lot of ground to make up and just six weeks to do it. I still don’t think they can make the playoffs. If they do, Washington is going to have put together performances like this against teams that don’t come into the game in 13th place. On that high note, Peter will be back with you Tuesday when the Caps head to big bad Pittsburgh!