It took until the fifth game on the eighth day of the season, but the Washington Capitals finally managed to put together a complete game under the guidance of first-year Coach Adam Oates and come away with a victory.
Fueled by contributions from every corner of the lineup, starting with Alex Ovechkin and on to Joel Ward and John Erskine, Washington played a smart and aggressive brand of hockey to capture a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday afternoon at Verizon Center. It was the only reward the Capitals wanted after days of making gradual progress with their new coach and new system.
"I think to get that first win this year, it kind of got the monkey off our back," said Erskine, who scored his first goal since May 4, 2011, in the second period. "I think guys will be a little bit at ease. It's not so much pressure now. And I think we got a good thing going here and we just got to keep rolling."
Washington's first victory had its roots in a 3-2 overtime loss two days earlier in New Jersey. While they were defeated by the defending Eastern Conference champions, the Capitals discovered their mental fortitude in rallying from a two-goal deficit and proved to themselves how well they could play if they stuck to the game plan.
"Hopefully the New Jersey game gave us confidence that when you do it right we look like a real team," said Oates, who earned his first win as an NHL head coach.
Every player agreed it was important to build off of that performance. That's exactly what the Capitals did against the Sabres.
"The main thing is that we carry on what we started in Jersey and just played the right way today, just by chipping pucks and outworking those guys," center Mike Ribeiro said. "I think Jersey, the one point was what we deserved, and today I think fully two points. The way we played, we played smart, we chipped pucks, we didn't play too much in our zone. We just played smart hockey today, and it paid dividends."
Buffalo, which was without top scorer Thomas Vanek (nine points in four games), took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Tyler Ennis 9 minutes 34 seconds into the first period. But rather than be rattled, the Capitals pushed harder and stuck to the basics.
Alex Ovechkin scores first goal of season as Washington forges first win
Washington Post | Jan 28