Game 38 Review: Caps Exorsize Demons in Buffalo

Posted by Dave Nichols | Wednesday, December 31, 2008 | , , , , , , | 0 comments »

Coach Bruce Boudreau's stated message before Tuesday night's game in Buffalo was simple: To be considered an elite team you have to win on the road in the tough buildings. And it does not get any tougher for the Caps than Buffalo's HSBC Arena, where they had lost seven of their last eight games.

His troops responded to the message, scoring early and holding down a mostly inept Buffalo offense until the final few moments, holding on to a 4-2 win and keeping the usually raucous pro-Sabres crowd out of the game.

Washington (24-11-3-51, first in Southeast) hushed the 18,000-plus very early, as Brooks Laich deposited a power play goal at 1:57 of the first period, on a rebound of a Niklas Backstrom shot. It was Laich's 11th of the season and sixth in nine games.

Chris Bourque, son of Hall of Famer Ray Bourque, scored his first NHL goal later in the period, converting a long rebound off a Ryan Miller kick save. He was reunited with David Steckel and Eric Fehr on a line that contributed heavily to Boudreau's AHL Calder Cup winning team in Hershey two years ago.

"I was lucky with the rebound right on my stick," Bourque said. "I wasn't going to miss that one."

Backstrom would make the score 3-0 midway through the second period, banging home a rebound of a Viktor Kozlov shot. Backstrom finished with a goal and assist, and Kozlov had two helpers.

Buffalo (17-15-5-39, third in Northeast) tried to make a go of it in the third, outshooting the Caps 16-11 in the frame. Adam Mair slipped one past Jose Theodore at 7:41 to briefly inspire the Buffalo faithful, but Jose Theodore (29 saves) proved up to the task, stopping Thomas Vanek and Nathan Gerbe at point blank range in the third.

Theodore continued his recent spate of good play and ended his own personal five game losing streak in Buffalo, dating back to his days with Montreal. Theo has won his last four games and seems to be gaining confidence every time out on the ice.

Boyd Gordon closed the Washington scoring with an opposite blue line empty netter with 43 seconds remaining while shorthanded. The Sabres added a consolation goal with 11 seconds, as Clarke MacArthur tapped in a rebound to conclude the power play.

Washington returns home to begin a four-game home stand against Tampa Thursday night at 7:00 PM. The Caps will also host the New York Rangers, Philadelphia and Columbus on the stand.

Photo by Getty Images.

WAS: Laich (11) from Backstrom and Kozlov (1-1:57-PP); Bourque (1) from Steckel and Fehr (1-9:02); Backstrom (11) from Kozlov and Green (2-12:11-PP); Gordon (4) unassisted (3-19:17-EN-SH)

BUF: Mair (5) from Gaustad and Lydman (3-7:41); MacArthur (11) from Hecht and Spacek (3-19:49-PP)

1. N. Backstrom - WAS (Goals: 1, Assists: 1)
2. V. Kozlov - WAS (Goals: 0, Assists: 2)
3. P. Gaustad - BUF (Goals: 0, Assists: 1)

Alex Ovechkin was held without a point for just the second time in 11 games. It was reported that his grandfather passed away over the weekend.

The Caps have won nine of their last 10 and 11-of-13 to open a 12-point lead over Carolina in the NHL's Southeast Division.

Backstrom has 38 points in his last 26 games.

Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn left the game late in the third after taking a shot off his lower leg.