"We had to persevere if we were to succeed." Coach Bruce Boudreau on tough 2-1 win over Buffalo.
THE RESULT: The Washington Capitals have been getting outscored lately in the third period of games, but they reversed that trend Sunday afternoon, as a late tally broke a 1-1 tie and gave the Caps a road victory over the Buffalo Sabres, 2-1 before 18,690 in HSBC Arena and an NBC national television audience.
The Capitals have entered the third period tied in four of their last six games, losing each of the three contests. Courtesy of a solid -- if unspectacular -- effort this afternoon, a familiar story had a much happier ending.
"We talked about, going into the third, that we had to have the will to persevere and and the confidence to do it," Boudreau said when asked if the effort in the third period was a confidence boost for his team. "I thought they dug deep and they blocked shots and did what they had to do tonight. It was a hard-earned two points."
With the win, Washington inches to within three points of division-leading Tampa Bay.
Marcus Johansson deflected a Mathieu Perreault shot midway through the third period to lift the Caps past a struggling Buffalo squad. Not only was it the game-winner, but it was also a power play marker, a precious asset the Caps just haven't had enough of this season.
Alex Ovechkin set up the goal, driving down the right wing drawing much of the Buffalo defense. He got off a shot that Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller brushed aside with his blocker, but the rebound went straight to Perreault, who lifted a shot back at the cage. Johansson, crashing the crease, tipped the puck as it went by and into the net.
Perreault also scored the first Caps goal in the second period, banging home a bad bounce off the boards past an out-of-position Miller (37 saves).
The late goal made for a happy ending. But for much of the game, the Caps were following a all-too familiar script: not taking advantage of opportunities.
Washington went 0-for-4 on the power play in the first period, including 1:34 of 5-on-3 time. They outshot Buffalo 16-8 in the first, including nine shots with the man advantage, but could not solve Miller. On one particular save, Miller was down and Nick Backstrom had him dead to rights, but shot the puck directly into Miller's outstretched left pad for the save.
It's a play we've seen Backstrom bury countless times in his tenure, but just goes on a long list of missed opportunities this season for the young center.
Regardless, the two young pivots came through for the Caps today, once again showing glimpses of the potential both possess. There will be a lot of talk with the upcoming trade deadline approaching about the Caps needing a quality, veteran second line center, and that talk is legitimate. It's been an weakness of the Caps all season long.
We've seen flashes of brilliance from both Perreault and Johansson, but for all too brief periods. The production over the long season just hasn't been there.
But for one afternoon, it was good enough.
So the Caps have taken four points through four games on this grueling five-game road trip. A win in Pittsburgh on Monday would have to qualify the trip a huge success.
With the trade dealine looming so near, it's time to find out who these Washington Capitals really are.
CAPS NEWS NETWORK THREE STARS
3. Alexander Semin. Gets the nod on the strength of one play, clearing the puck from the crease in scramble late in the game. I think I've now seen everything.
2. Semyon Varlamov. 28 saves on 29 shots. Solid positioning, only goal came on a screened shot on a power play.
1. Mathieu Perreault. In the right place twice, scoring and getting the primary assist on Johansson's tip-in. We'll overlook his careless stick foul.