Vanek goal gives Sabres OT win
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)
Thomas Vanek scored his second goal of the game with a minute left in overtime to provide the Buffalo Sabres their first home win of the season in beating the Washington Capitals 3-2 on Saturday night.
Steve Montador also scored, while Ryan Miller stopped 23 shots in his first game after missing six with a hip injury. Jordan Leopold added three assists for Buffalo, which became the NHL's final team to win a home game this season, improving to 1-6-1.
Vanek scored on a great individual effort, driving through the middle and getting around Capitals defenseman John Carlson. He then faked a forehand shot before backhanding the puck in behind rookie Braden Holtby.
The Sabres' bench erupted in celebration and then smothered Vanek on the ice. Buffalo (6-9-3) is also starting to heat up, having registered at least a point in each of its past four games (3-0-1) - a stretch in which all games have been decided in overtime or in a shootout.
After Alzner opened the scoring in 8 minutes in, the Sabres responded to take the lead by scoring twice in the second period.
Montador tied it at 1 midway through the period, when his shot from the right point glanced in off the post and past Holtby, who was screened by Buffalo's Cody McCormick.
Vanek then scored the go-ahead goal a little over six minutes later, when Leopold's shot from the point caromed off two Capitals defenders and settled to the right of the net, where Vanek swept it into the open side. It was the Sabres' first power-play goal in 18 chances, and scored 24 seconds after Washington's Tomas Fleischmann was penalized for high-sticking Tyler Ennis.
The Capitals tied it 7 minutes into the third when Backstrom lifted a shot from the slot that sneaked in just inside the crossbar.
But Miller didn't look at all rusty in playing his first game in two weeks. His biggest save came on getting his left pad out to foil Alex Ovechkin attempting to stuff the puck inside the post on a clear-cut breakaway 15 minutes into the first period. Ovechkin failed to register a point to end an eight-game streak, in which he had five goals and 10 assists.
Miller also made two solid saves on bang-bang chances in the final minute of the opening period, first stopping Tyler Sloan's point shot, and then getting across to hug the right post to prevent Marcus Johansson's shot from a bad angle.
And then, after being thoroughly outplayed in the first period when the Capitals outshot them 13-6, the Sabres found their legs in the second.
Even still, the Sabres' power play struggled, failing to convert a pair of 4-minute advantages, including a double-minor called against Backstrom for high-sticking with 2:54 remaining in regulation.
NOTES: Capitals RW Alexander Semin extended his points streak to seven games with an assist on Karl Alzner's opening goal. It also marked Semin's first point in seven games at Buffalo. ... Prior to the game, the Sabres honored RW Mike Grier for playing in his 1,00th career game on Nov. 3. ... Capitals RW Boyd Gordon did not play, and will miss about a week after taking a shot to the leg during a 6-3 win over Tampa Bay on Thursday. The Capitals were also without D Tom Poti, who has an undisclosed injury. Poti had missed eight games with a lower body injury, before returning to the lineup - and scoring a goal - against Tampa Bay. ... Johansson returned after missing nine games with a hip flexor for the Capitals.