Capitals Fall To Sabres, 4-3(SO) In 2023 Preseason Opener; Hunter Shepard Strong In Goal

Photo: X/@Capitals

While the Washington Commanders were getting trounced by the Buffalo Bills just down the road at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, the Washington Capitals opened their 2023 pre-season slate of games Sunday afternoon hosting the Buffalo Sabres at Capital One Arena. The Capitals also fell to Buffalo, 4-3, in the shootout.

Hunter Shepard got the start in goal for the Capitals while Eric Comrie got the nod for the visiting Sabres. The Capitals forward lines and defensive pairs:

Aliaksei Protas – Dylan Strome – Matthew Phillips
Sonny Milano – Hendrix Lapierre – Anthony Mantha
Jake Karabela – Riley Sutter – Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Alexnder Suzdalev – Ryan Hofer – Henrik Rybinski

Alex Alexeyev – Trevor van Riemsdyk
Martin Fehervary – Vincent Iorio
Lucas Johansen – Dylan McIlrath

Hunter Shepard
Clay Stevenson


The Capitals were called for back-to-back penalties in the early going after Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Alex Alexeyev were called for successive infractions, but the Capitals penalty kill was up the task, keeping the game scoreless. There were a total of four penalties called in the first 5:35 of the game.

The Capitals opened the scoring with a close-range shot from the low slot by Nicolas Aube-Kubel with 5:08 remaining in the first frame. Riley Sutter and Lucas Johansen had the helpers. It was the Capitals fourth shot on goal of the period.

The first period concluded with the Capitals holding the 1-o lead. The Sabres led in shots 10-5, and were able to fire a majority of those shots from the low slot. Hunter Shepard was strong against all shots.


After a scoreless half of the middle frame, Clay Stevenson took over between the pipes for the Capitals. Hunter Shepard stopped all 18 shots he faced.

The Capitals made it 2-0 late in the middle frame with a goal from Ryan Hofer with just over seven minutes remaining in the frame. Henrik Rybinski and Trevor van Riemsdyk had the helpers.

The Sabres answered three minutes later with a goal from JJ Peterka with 4:02 remaining in the second period, making it 2-1.

The second period concluded with the Capitals maintaining a one-goal lead, 2-1. The Capitals flipped the script in the middle frame, generating shots from the slot and the net front.


The Sabres tied the game early in the final frame with a tally from Peyton Krebs just 1:19 into the period.

The Sabres grabbed their first lead of the game with less than 11 minutes to go in the game. Zach Benson was credited with the go-ahead marker at 8:59 of the third period.

But the Capitals quickly answered with a goal from Sonny Milano at 12:31,tying the game 3-3. Anthony Mantha and Dylan Strome had the helpers.

Regulation would end with the game tied 3-3.

Trevor van Riemsdyk left the game in the third period after being struck on the right arm/hand by a shot. He’ll be evaluated tomorrow. Spencer Carbery said there’s “definitely concern”.

Carbery added that he’d be concerned any time a veteran player leaves the game and doesn’t return, but it was clear that there’s concern for TvR. He didn’t put his hand back on his stick for the rest of the shift after the contact occurred.


The five-minute overtime period went without a score, sending the game to the shootout.

Round 1: Sonny Milano, good. JJ Peterko, good.
Round 2: Hendrix Lapierre, no good, Zach Benson, no good
Round 3: Dylan Strome, no good, Brandon Biro, good.

NHL Box Score

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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23 Responses to Capitals Fall To Sabres, 4-3(SO) In 2023 Preseason Opener; Hunter Shepard Strong In Goal

  1. Anonymous says:

    Shepard needs to be seriously considered for #2 spot. What more does he have to do?

    • Anonymous says:

      Likely that Kuemper will be traded at deadline with this roster. I’d be fine rolling into 24-25 with Lindgren and Shepard.

      • Anonymous says:

        Kuemper is signed through 2027-28.

      • Anonymous says:

        I agree with you and would like that also. The problem is going to get someone to take Kuemper and his contract without having to give up players or picks. Just another knee jerk signing and overpaying for a player. Probably have more of a chance to trade Lindgren then Kuemper. This whatever you want to call it to appease Ovie and try to make the playoffs is not looking good, not only for this season but also for the next 3-6 years.

    • horn73 says:

      What else?? How about play against a roster of NHL players and do consistently well for at least 20 games and I still wouldn’t trade Kuemper…

  2. Prevent Defense says:

    Not a bad showing for the first preseason game. Caps looked like they had a clue how to do the Carb system. Mantha looked sharp and quick. NIfty pass to SMilano for the tying goal. Maybe one of the Stephenson goals was a bit soft. Maybe two. Hofer, Sudzy and Karabela looked particularly sharp. Not too much brutality but plenty of finishing-checks, by both teams.

    Losing TvR will $ukk. Will open opportunity for the many Caps’ d-hopefuls. The War of Attrition that is the NHL is “on.” Bring on the remaining four pre-games.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Should have gone with Suzdalev in the shootout. That’s his strong stuff.

  4. Anonymous says:

    First time out…they looked like they had about five days of practice. No real indicators here at all, BUT:
    LaPierre looked like a boy playing a man’s game. Slower, not as strong, and overpowered in the corners and in front of the net;
    Mantha: every shift, he was the first on his line to exit the ice. He wanted off/ Same old, same old: no speed, no intensity. He is a big man…a big body, and for the most part he was playing against boys. He really should have had a major impact. Did not power his way into a corner…he glided into a corner. Skated around but did not engage. It is the same old Mantha

    • Anonymous says:

      I guess that PR obstacle course stunt from training camp did not translate well on to the ice.

      Mantha carried this team to the loss today! Today’s game me realize Mantha may not even be AHL quality let alone NHL.

      I enjoyed some of the articles about Kuzy hammering HCPL and GMBM in the press today. Kuzy should be! I’m glad there is one Capitals player who is willing to stand up and speak truth. Like Samsonov , Kuzy was GMBM’s scape goat.

      Sounds like he was trying to give good advice to Alexeyev to not sign in Washington because he would “have to ride the bench”……and he was right because they brought Edmundson in. (GMBM’s warm body so he could say he did something)

      Ask yourselves, if everything were fine in that locker room would Kuznetsov be saying the things he is saying? Smoke and mirrors.

      Don’t be mad at Kuzy, listen to him, he is a generational talent who was being told to play dump and chase hockey for two years while the Caps organization destroyed his reputation in the press and GMBM dismantled the team. The man contributed to bring DC a Cup in a huge way, maybe we should listen to him and start making some noise.

      Suzdalev was the only player in a Caps Jersey outside of Milano, Shepard and AKN who looks like he is at the level to get a jersey.

      Sucks about TVR, hope he is just banged up, next to Sandin he is are most valuable d-man.

      • Anonymous says:

        LMAO!! 1st preseason game and probably 8 of the players and both goalies will not be here in Oct. 2nd Mantha is fighting for his hockey life as he has to produce this season to get the BIG UFA contract next summer. 3rd fail to see where and how Kuzy is a generational talent, he is very talented who doesn’t play to his full potential mot of the time. Have you thought maybe the dump and chase was to motivate him and it didn’t? maybe some of his problem was/is his use of the nose candy. 4th as for Sammy think his problem in Wash was being rotated in and out all the time. And also listening to Kuzy is like listening to the malcontent, troublemaker in your class rather than the vet Ovie.

        You are reading way to much into the 1st pre season game as this is just to get some of the vets on the ice and stretched out and evaluate the young guys, honestly more the eval part.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Spencer is probably looking at Mantha like “what Am i going to do with this slug”

  6. Jon Sorensen says:

    Post gamers:

  7. Anonymous says:


  8. Prevent Defense says:

    Orioles disaster Chris Davis lost the ability to hit a pitched baseball and fans suffered through his $161 million dollar contract. It was seven years and CD was productive for about two. To try and resurrect his career, CD in his final season bulked-up over the winter and showed up at Spring Training with about 20 more pounds of primarily muscle. He looked like Mr. America, but still couldn’t hit, and the O’s finally removed him and ate his contract, which is still being paid today.

    A. Mantha has tried the opposite direction: A sizeable weight loss over the summer. So far NovaCapsFans gallery evaluates the effort as a manifest failure. I gotta admit, he didn’t hit any opponents throughout the game. The young bucks on both teams were checking with vigor.

    Looking forward to commentary on Nick Backstrom’s first preseason game, either THU or next TUES against the Red Wings.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hate that they are sticking with the man to man defense. Do they use that system in Hershey? Maybe over time they will adjust to it but it won’t work for this old lazy roster.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      There is typically “system” coordination between the Capitals and the Bears, so that there are some synergies if a player is called up, etc. But we haven’t seen if that in fact will be the case until Hershey starts playing. I get your point about man-to-man.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Despite the sports psychologist, the huge 6 lb weight loss (took him all summer to achieve something most of us could do in 3 weeks), and saying what he knows people want to hear, I saw the same old lack luster play from Anthony Mantha. Speed seemed to be the same, getting over powered by a guy a foot shorter than him appeared to be the same, skating around in circles appeared to be the same. Please just cut him.

  11. Anonymous says:

    First round of camp cuts today?

  12. Prevent Defense says:

    Recommend accessing the Caps “Twitter feed” or “X” to view an extended version of “Mites on Ice” from first preseason game. Had kids a bit older than I’ve seen before, they looked like 10 or 11 years old. Some really slick skill out there. But the CELEBRATIONS were superb! One kid on the Red Team roofed a goal an performed the Kuzy “Dirty Bird” celebration to perfection — with a loud ovation from fans. Another lad gave us multiple “fist pumps” that lots of NHL players do. A kid with a crew-cut provided the blonde media babe with a cool interview after the game

    A welcome break from how bad our GM $ukks and this and that Caps player who should be shipped to Borneo

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Lol. Are you suggesting the Capitals are holding low-key tryouts in the Mites game? 😂 just kidding.

      • Prevent Defense says:

        Actually, I’m impressed with graduates of “Little Caps” arriving to challenge for slots on the big club. Like Joe Snively … and help me out here, there’s a prospect this season who was at Caps Rookie Camp, also a graduate of Little Caps. Name escapes me at the moment

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