Capitals shut down Sabres, hang on to lead and win, 4-2
If you haven't already, head on over to the game story for Thursday's hard-copy edition to read about the lead that didn't get away from the Capitals. After watching sizable advantages vanish in each of the past three games, the Capitals were pleased to show that when they all buy in and play a simple game they can shut teams down and prevent a lead from escaping.
At the center of this success with a methodical dump-and-chase style of game was the new line of Jason Chimera, David Steckel and Matt Bradley. In a game that featured entirely new combinations among the forwards, it's hard to know if anyone would have picked the line of checkers to excel so effortlessly.
They've never all played together on a single line but their affinity for the same style of game -- dump the puck in, create a strong forecheck to recover it, muscle shots off and repeat -- made it easy.
"I think we just kept it simple," said Chimera, whose pair of assists were nice set-ups for both of his linemates from behind the net. "Our two goals were the direct result of getting pucks deep and getting the forecheck going. Me, Brads and Stecks work well together down low. We kind of seem to swarm guys to keep them in their own zone and we did a good job of that. It's nice to be rewarded for your hard work at times."
Bradley's goal found its way through Ryan Miller's pads and trickled over the goal line to make it 2-0 by the end of the first. Steckel's one-timer hit the right post, the left then Miller's skate en route to the back of the cage for a 3-0 Caps edge. It marked Chimera's first multi-point game of the season and Bradley's first since Jan. 7, 2010 against Ottawa. All told, they combined for five points and two goals including the game-winner.
The chances they created on nearly every shift seemed to set a tone for the rest of the team and before long, all of the Capitals were looking to seize opportunities off the forecheck and play a simple game.
"Chimmer got in there and made some great plays and Brads," Steckel said of the instant-chemistry with the line. "I just kind of mucked it up and we were in the right spots. If you do the right stuff and you are working hard, it's easy to play together."
Some other notes and observations from the Caps' win over Buffalo:
--Alexander Semin's pass to Nicklas Backstrom for that easy power play goal that caught Miller going from his right to left looked like the perfect incarnation of that play. It's something that can be so routine for the Capitals that there's little emotion involved in a goal like that. (Check out the replay.)
With two points tonight, Semin extended his point streak to nine games and it now stands at 17 points (nine goals). Meanwhile, Backstrom has 15 points in the past nine games after recording six in his first eight games.
This is also the third straight game in which the Capitals have scored the first goal, but it's probably the first one of those contests where they've followed it up with a largely even performance the rest of the way.
--Michal Neuvirth's trend of playing well in the third period continued against Buffalo. He didn't face many shots in the third period (2) until the Sabres' power play when he made five key stops.
--Marcus Johansson was the Capitals' best faceoff man against the Sabres. The rookie won 10 of 15 draws and it appears he's making progress from that slow start in the circle. I'll have more on how he played with Alex Ovechkin and Boudreau's reasoning for all of the early line changes in the morning.
| November 17, 2010; 10:56 PM ET
Categories: Alexander Semin, Buffalo Sabres, David Steckel, Jason Chimera, Matt Bradley, Nicklas Backstrom
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