Sabers’ comeback effort far from lost against the Capitals

Cody Eakin felt good about the Buffalo Sabers’ effort to return to Capital One Arena on Monday night, although he ultimately failed in a 5-3 loss to the Washington Capitals.

The Sabers have reduced their deficit to one goal twice after falling 2-0 early in the second period. Missed opportunities on the power play and the Capitals’ offense in net made the difference in the end.

“I think we did a lot of good things, a lot of things to improve,” said Eakin, who scored to put the Sabers on the board in the second period. “But for the most part, we competed pretty hard and gave them a lot to deal with.”

The loss extended Buffalo’s winless streak to five games (0-4-1).

Video: BUF recap: Eakin and Bjork score in 5-3 loss to Capitals

Washington went on the offensive early and created several layers of pressure in front of the goalkeeper Dustin Tokarski on Tom Wilson’s first goal, scored just 2:13 in the contest. Trevor van Riemsdyk unleashed a point shot that deflected Alex Ovechkin’s stick before bouncing into Wilson’s net.

The goal foreshadowed most of the Capitals’ offense. Connor McMichael sent a shot into the defender’s body Christian Wolanine to bring the score to 2-0 at 2:30 of the second period. Ovechkin scored his 11th goal of the season, the best in the NHL – and tied with Brett Hull for fourth place on the all-time goals list – on a deviation from the slot.

Conor Sheary was credited with deflecting a John Carlson point shot on Washington’s final goal, which extended his lead to 5-2 with 2:13 remaining in the third period.

Sabers coach Don Granato said the team could have done better to fill shooting lanes or pressure shooters to keep traffic out in the first place.

“There are a number of things that can be done,” Granato said. “Obviously when you watch a game like this, that was the deciding factor in the game, the inability to do it tonight, none of those things tonight. So we’ll have to learn and adapt to it. “

Video: AFTERGAME: Granato

The Sabers fought their way to a 39-21 advantage on 5-on-5 shooting attempts in the final 40 minutes after resisting the Capitals’ push in the first period. Eakin’s goals and Anders Björk had led them 3-2 with 4:43 to go.

A turnaround led Wilson to beat Tokarski alone to regain the two-goal lead. Sheary ultimately added cushion with the Capitals on a power play.

Colin Miller added one more goal for the Sabers in the last minute.

“I enjoyed the fight until the end,” said Granato. “We have to be competitive. It was a disappointing (aspect) in our last game on the road, we didn’t have a very high level of competition and we needed it above all.”

The Sabers went 0-for-3 on the power play and failed to shoot goaltender Vitek Vanecek. The Capitals lobbied the blue line and prevented the Sabers from planning their attack.

“I think we need to put some practice time into it,” said Granato. “I just need to do it. It was certainly a disappointment today, without a doubt.

Defense changes

Granato shuffled his defensive pairs for the first time since the second game of the season. Marc Pysyk moved to a pair with Rasmus Dahlin while Wolanin made his Sabers debut alongside Robert hagg. Will Boucher has been scratched.

“Will had persistent problems and just felt he needed a break,” said Granato. “Be a little healthier, I guess.”

Shooting attempts were 18-6 in favor of Buffalo with Dahlin and Pysyk on the ice 5-5.


The Sabers return to KeyBank Center for back-to-back home games against the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday and Saturday.

Friday’s game will air exclusively on ESPN + and Hulu. The face-off is scheduled for the 7th.

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