The Washington Capitals defeated the Buffalo Sabres Friday evening 3-1 behind their backup goalie’s 32-save performance.
Grubauer Birthday Bash:
Capitals goalie Philipp Grubauer celebrated his 25th birthday Friday by saving 32 of Buffalo’s 33 shots in his third win of the year.
The German native’s parents were in town for his birthday, allowing them to attend the game. Before Friday night, his parents had never seen him play in a NHL game in person.
“It’s more important for me to get the two points,” Grubauer said, according to The Washington Post. “I’m focused on the game and not on my parents. When the puck drops, it’s all business.”
Washington head coach Barry Trotz started Grubauer over teammate Braden Holtby Friday, as the Capitals played the first of two games in a 26 hour window. Holtby will likely get the nod in Washington’s second game in as many days.
“[Grubauer] played really well, [and] we played well in front of him,” Trotz said, per ESPN. “When things got a little hairy on the penalty kill, he came up with a couple of big stops.”
Grubauer allowed no goals in the Sabres’ four power plays. He saved four shots in single a third period penalty kill.
Buffalo put six shots on goal in the first period. However, the Sabres’ attack picked up as they had 27 shots in the final two frames.
“I think every game [Grubauer has] played this year, he’s been playing really well for us and gave us a chance every night,” Capitals forward Marcus Johansson noted, according to The Washington Post. “We’ve got two unbelievable goalies back there.”
Buffalo head coach Dan Bylsma also started his backup goalie, Anders Nilsson. Nilsson impressed as well, stopping breakaway shots. However, he allowed three goals during his 29-save night.
Capitals forward Brett Connolly scored two points on the night with a goal and an assist.
Connolly assisted the game’s first goal. He rebounded a blocked shot in the first period and swapped the puck with nearby Washington forward Daniel Winnik. Winnik served a shot into the corner of the net for his third goal of the season.
Connolly added his own goal during a third period power play.
“It was a good time of the game to get [a goal],” Connolly said, per ESPN. “[The Sabres] were coming pretty hard there and it was good to see that one go in.”
Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin delivered the shot that bounced straight to Connolly, earning Ovechkin the goal’s primary assist.
Washington, the league’s 17th most efficient power play squad, has scored a goal with a man advantage in three straight games.
Friday’s power-play goal gave the Capitals insurance, returning their lead to two after Buffalo forward Sam Reinhart scored halfway through the third period. Reinhart’s goal cut Washington’s advantage to 2-1.
Despite the number of shots the Sabres had, they could not convert.
“It is frustrating,” Reinhart said, according to The Buffalo News. “I don’t know one guy in here that isn’t [frustrated].”
Johansson added to the Capitals’ scoring in the second period. His eighth goal of the year gave Washington a 2-0 lead at the time.
Johansson had not scored since he delivered a game-winning goal in Chicago two weeks ago.
The Capitals win Friday night was their fourth of their five-home stand.
How They Stand:
Washington jumped into second place in the Metropolitan Division, sporting a 13-5-2 record.
Buffalo dropped to 7-9-5, keeping them in eighth place in the Atlantic Division.
A Look Ahead:
The Capitals will travel to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs Saturday night in the lone game of their road trip.
The Sabres will play the Senators in Ottawa Tuesday night.