Photo: Sara Schmidle/Getty Images
The Washington Capitals opened the 2020-21 season with a 6-4 victory at the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Arena on Thursday. Goaltender Ilya Samsonov made 22 saves in the win.
Capitals’ Lines at Sabres
Defenseman Zdeno Chara, defenseman Justin Schultz, and forward Conor Sheary all made their Capitals’ debuts on Thursday night. Defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk, defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler, and forward Daniel Sprong were the scratches. Head coach Peter Laviolette was behind the bench for the first time with the Capitals.
While falling down in the slot, captain Alex Ovechkin fed center Nicklas Backstrom at the side of the goal and Backstrom slid the puck past goaltender Carter Hutton to make it 1￼-0 Capitals 5:43 in. It was Ovechkin’s 19th point (eighth assist) in 16 season openers.
Ovi –> Backy we love to see it 😍 pic.twitter.com/SqJgsbmchz— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 15, 2021
Forward Taylor Hall tapped in his first as a Sabre in front of the net after forward Victor Olofsson passed the puck to him from the right circle to tie it on the power-play at 8:48.
Forward T.J. Oshie slid a rebound in front of the crease into the goal after Hutton stopped an Ovechkin shot from the office on the power-play to give the Capitals the lead back 1:45 later. Ovechkin’s second assist gave him 363 career multi-point games, the second-most in the NHL since he entered the league in 2005-06.
🍩shbabe on the PP! pic.twitter.com/QFV61Gflss— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 15, 2021
The Capitals led 14-8 in shots, 9-7 in hits, and 1-0 in takeaways through 20 minutes. They also won 58% of the draws in the opening period.
The Sabres led 4-3 in blocked shots and had one giveaway while the Capitals had three in the first.
Each team converted on their lone power-play of the period.
Defenseman John Carlson ripped the puck past the blocker of Hutton on a semi-breakaway after Oshie fed him in the neutral zone for his third assist of the game to make it 3-1 7:05 into the second.
Defenseman Brenden Dillon let it fly from the point through the screen off of a faceoff win and it beat Hutton to extend the Capitals’ lead to 4-1 at 13:23. Sheary earned a primary assist in his first game with the team.
Dilly Dilly from the point! pic.twitter.com/Sgj9pp0EGJ— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 15, 2021
Forward Tobias Rieder cut the Capitals’ lead in the half on a wrap-around attempt that went off of Capitals center Lars Eller in front after getting the puck out of a scramble from behind the net with 1:14 left in the second.
The Capitals led 23-17 in shots, 15-13 in hits, and won 55% of the draws through 40 minutes.
The Sabres led 7-5 in shots during the second and 7-5 in blocked shots after two.
Each team went one-for-two on the power-play and recorded nine second-period shots, five giveaways, and three takeaways in the first two periods.
Defenseman Jake McCabe one-timed a shot from just above the right circle after captain Jack Eichel picked the Capitals’ pocket and fed him with a cross-ice pass to make it a one-goal game 20 seconds into the third.
26 seconds later, forward Jakub Vrana picked off Sabres forward Eric Staal’s failed pass and roofed the puck on Hutton to restore the Capitals’ two-goal lead.
Dillon took McCabe down to the ground with 4:33 left.
Forward Victor Olofsson ripped a shot past Samsonov’s glove after getting a slot feed from Hall to cut the lead to one with under two minutes left.
Forward Garnet Hathaway secured the win with an empty-net goal from the Capitals’ blueline with 62 seconds left.
The Capitals led 28-26 in shots, 11-7 in blocked shots, had seven giveaways while the Sabres had nine, won 51% of the draws, and went one-for-two on the power play.
The Sabres led 9-5 in shots during the third, 6-5 in takeaways, 20-19 in hits, and scored on one of their three power plays.
The Capitals and Sabres clash again in Buffalo on Friday night. Action from Western New York can be seen on NBC Sports Washington beginning at 7 PM ET.
By Harrison Brown