Photo credit: Dave Sanford

Sunday night after the Capitals’ 3-0 win against the Wild, Coach Dale Hunter said that tonight’s matchup with the Buffalo Sabres was going to be “like the seventh game of the playoffs.”

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Buffalo Sabres Pregame: Manifest Destiny

Craig of the PuckBuddys delivers this pregame and travelogue. Please follow @PuckBuddys on Twitter.

So it all comes down to this. A season full of mediocre and substandard Caps performances could very well hinge upon Tuesday night’s tilt against the Sabres. Or, as we like to call them, the godless and heathen Sabres. Tuesday night at Verizon is when we glance up into the rear-view mirror and see all those squandered games and lost opportunities receding into the distance. Had the Caps gotten their heads and asses wired together at any point between November and say, last Friday’s night’s OT loss to the Jets, we wouldn’t be on pins and needles headed into Tuesday evening, or in my particular case, on lithium and Maker’s Mark.

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Photo credit: Mitchell Layton

After the Capitals’ somewhat easy 4-1 victory over the Eastern Conference’s best team Wednesday, Nicklas Backstrom spoke to Versus’ Pierre McGuire. In explaining the team’s troubles this year, Backstrom said, “I think we haven’t been working hard enough. Everybody has to commit and do their job, and that’s what we haven’t been doing.”

It’s hard to express optimism that the Caps have finally turned the corner, if they can’t string a couple of solid victories together, and — you know — actually turn the corner. Would they bring the energy again in their second match-up in three games against the Buffalo Sabres, a team who has given the Caps fits all year?

You tell me. Photo recap time!

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Charmin Soft, Sabres beat Caps 4-2

Alex Ovechkin appeals to the ref. (Photo credit: Bill Wippert)

The Washington Capitals might have had too much figgy pudding, as their post-Christmas match-up with the Buffalo Sabres was one of their ugliest of the season. Maybe the worst.

Exactly how bad was it? So bad that we’re exercising The Option. The option is an obscure RMNB bylaw that allows us to not really write about a game because it was so wretched our primitive language cannot adequately describe it.

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Nadir: Sabres beat Caps 5-1

 Dave Sandford

Zack Kassian beats Tomas Vokoun. (Photo credit: Dave Sandford)

The Washington Capitals hopped on up to Buffalo, intending to shake off last night’s bad beat by whipping the Sabres. The injury-wracked Buffalo team missed a big chunk of its lineup, but they did not miss many scoring chances. And the Caps were just plain awful.

Luke Adam caught an easy bounce after Dennis Wideman’s failed clearing attempt. Jason Pominville scored his ninth of the year when Tomas Vokoun couldn’t find the puck. Jason Chimera drew a penalty shot and fired it so hard it disintegrated in the net. The very next shift– just half a minute later, toddler Zack Kassian recorded his first NHL goal– making it 3-1. Luke Adam opened the third period with a mean snapshot. Jochen Hecht beat Mathieu Perreault to record a shorthanded goal and finalize it. Sabres beat Caps 5-1.

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Edit by Ian Oland

Photo edit: Ian Oland

Doug Johnson is one of the Puck Buddys. You already follow them on Twitter, right?

The Pre Game:  We’re thankful for Puck Buddy Bunny and Dave E filling in for us on the pregamer for the Winnipeg Jets game a few days back. So, too, were RMNB readers, if the comments are to be believed (and really, has the Internet ever lied?) “I retract any critical statements I’ve made of Doug Johnson in the past,” commented one ‘CDizz.’ To which we say: ha ha! We’re betting you will soon be retracting that retraction, Mr. Dizz. We now return you to your regular, disappointing pregames.

It must be said, however that these last few games have been anything but disappointing for Caps fans. Sure, Wednesday’s result was closer than we like (in part due to a genuinely crummy officiating call against Mike Knuble’s third-period goal that made us throw things at the television) and we’re still only talking a ‘streak’ of two games. We always considered, and still do, any talk of streaks in either direction premature. A streak implies consistent success or failure of the team to execute; this past week or so proves that Coach Boudreau’s squad is not consistent, playing like jellyfish one game and superheros the next. Still, Sasha, Nicky, and Chimera were a gravy-boat of goodness against the Jets, as was the team overall, and we have reason to believe that may continue. Or hope. Reason to hope, maybe. To believe. Moving on…

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Photo credit: Joel Auerbach

Ever since the Panthers beat the tar out of the Lightning 7-4 on Monday, they’ve struggled to put the puck in the net. On Tuesday, they traveled up to DC to face former teammate Tomas Vokoun and got blanked 3-0. Thursday, the trend continued.  Down one goal to the Sabres after 30 minutes of listless hockey, Florida was  looking for momentum.

Enter Matt Bradley.

After a neutral zone faceoff, the former Capital skated with purpose towards Paul Gaustad and shoved him. You know what happened next.

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Ovechkin celebration

Just another night at the office for Ovechkin: a goal, two assists and the invention of a new dance. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

NHL referee Bill McCreary is honored with his wife Mary Ann and daughter Melissa, along with Vice President and Caps General Manger George McPhee of the Washington Capitals before officiating his final NHL game

Referee Bill McCreary is honored with his wife Mary Ann and daughter Melissa, along with Vice President and Caps General Manger George McPhee before officiating his final NHL game. (Photo credit: Mitchell Layton)

On Fan Appreciation Day, the Capitals certainly rewarded their supporters. In front of 18,398 deafening fans — good for the Caps’ 100th consecutive sellout — Washington pulled out a thrilling overtime victory, moving into the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Caps struck first and early when just 37 seconds in John Carlson fired a wrist shot that Buffalo Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth failed to collect. The red-hot Mike Knuble then did his usual dirty work in the crease to net the opening tally.

Washington jumped out to a two goal lead at 4:41 when Alexander Semin — who was on the ice for eight chances for and three against — scored a similar goal to Knuble’s, tapping in Nicklas Backstrom’s rebound behind Enroth. PANIC!!!1 Timeout Buffalo.

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A Solid Sixty Minutes of Hockey: Caps Spear Sabres, 2-1

Ovechkin-Perreault

“Perry, we did it! We actually score on power play!” (Photo credit: Rick Stewart)

After going 1-4 in their last five games — all against Western Conference foes — the Caps headed back to the friendly confines of the east coast on Sunday, hoping to right the ship versus Buffalo. Facing a hungry Sabres team in a nationally televised matchup, Washington was certainly up to the task.

The first period may have been scoreless but it certainly wasn’t uneventful. The Capitals managed 16 shots but Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller was fantastic, making big saves throughout the frame. Washington also had four power play chances in the period, including over a minute and a half on the two man advantage. However, the Caps PP continued their struggles, failing to convert as Miller remained strong.

Mathieu Perreault would finally break Miller’s streak in the second stanza. After an odd bounce in the corner, the puck kicked out to the front of the net. Perreault took advantage, putting the Caps up 1-0. However, after Brooks Laich was called for goalie interference, the Sabres would head to the power play. At 8:20 Jason Pominville converted on the man advantage, getting the puck past a screened Semyon Varlamov to knot the score at one.

Midway through the third, former Cap Shaone Morrisonn was whistled for interference, once again putting Washington on the power play. But this time, it actually worked. Alex Ovechkin skated the puck into zone before firing a shot on Miller who made the stop. However, the biscuit went to waiting Perreault. With a little help from Marcus Johansson — whose deflection awarded him the marker — Perreault put the puck in the back of net, giving the Capitals the lead. Buffalo attempted a rally but Varlamov stayed strong. Caps beat Sabres, 2-1.

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