But an overtime goal by Jason Pominville, off a turnover in his own end by future hall-of-famer Sergei Fedorov, ruined the celebration.
As the Sabres collected on the Verizon Center ice to celebrate, um, something, the Caps headed to the locker room with slumped shoulders, knowing that they left a needed point out on the ice tonight. New Jersey beat Tampa by an identical 5-4 overtime score, so the Caps find themselves just two points ahead of Satan's minions with four games remaining.
Oh by the way, three of which are on the road due to the VC being overrun with the legions of fans of Bemidji State University.
Fedorov had a heck of a night, scoring twice on big, booming slap shots. But he also took a lazy hook which led to Buffalo's third goal in addition to the turnover in overtime.
Actually, the real score of tonight's game was Caps 7, Buffalo 2. Three of Buffalo's goals touched a Caps player last, and the second goal was a thing of beauty for Viktor Kozlov, redirecting a Clarke MacArthur pass past a sliding Simeon Varlamov like he meant to.
Varlamov, making his fourth start, looked sharp at times and shaky at times, something one would expect from a rookie playing in a playoff atmosphere. He is a much better skater and puck-handler than Jose Theodore, so much so the comparisons are drastic.
But he found himself out of position and scrambling every single time the puck was behind his own net. He's a tremendous athlete, that much is certain. And his athleticism allowed him to recover from mistakes several times tonight. But he still has some growing to do before he's an NHL regular.
Alex Ovechkin scored his 55th of the season, keeping alive the possible 60-goal repeat. Brooks Laich made a nifty backhand pass through the crease allowing Ovie to deposit the puck into a mostly open net.
And Ovie's running mate, Alexander Semin, registered his 30th of the year. That gives the Caps three players with 30-plus goals, and with Fed's pair he cracks double digits, giving the Caps nine players with 10 or more goals.
Washington plays their last home game Sunday against the suddenly resurgent Atlanta Thrashers at 3:00 pm.
Enjoy the slideshow. Uncle Ted spoke to season ticket holders before the game, so some shots of that are in there as well. The big news from the chalk talk is that Uncle Ted thinks they'll have to have a waiting list for season tickets next year. Caps fever, catch it!