Forget hockey plays. What really worried the Capitals’ Joel Ward momentum-wise in the Capitals’ 5-3 win over Buffalo Sunday night was the minor power outage at Verizon Center at the start of the third period.
“We were just glad it wasn’t another blackout like the Super Bowl,” he joked after the game, which eventually resumed in a slightly less illuminated setting. “We were a little worried about that momentum swing, but we handled it well and kept the ball rolling.”
When talking about the Capitals’ play overall, Ward labeled it a definite improvement over Saturday’s game against Boston, adding the Sabres Sunday were a little tired and that the Capitals tried to use home ice to their advantage.
It certainly worked at the start of the game, where Alex Ovechkin had a goal almost immediately after a faceoff early in the first. Then came a jaw-dropping pass through traffic—the kind that makes you wonder if it was luck or genius—on the power play from Mike Ribeiro to Troy Brower, whose ensuing shot put the Capitals up 2-0. Like so much of recent Caps’ history, though, the Sabres were able to claw their way back, bringing the game to within one in the third before the Capitals got an insurance goal off a Ward assist to Mathieu Perreault. It should also be noted that Jason Chimera got his first goal of the season. By the end, the only thing that was stopping the Capitals from scoring more was Buffalo’s empty net. (Yes, you read that right.)
In between the goals, though, a lot of Steve Ott happened, including what I consider the most encouraging play of the entire season: Alex Ovechkin taking down Ott in a scrum when Ott went after Nicklas Backstrom. It was the kind of thing a captain should do. It was also the kind of thing that appeared lacking in the loss to Boston on Saturday.
“Obviously, we’re without Erskine in the lineup, some teams might think they’re stronger than they are, and to have a captain step up like that is just great for the team,” Mike Ribeiro said after Sunday’s game. He also added this tidbit about that fight Saturday against Brad Marchand—Ribeiro’s first in the NHL: “I felt he couldn’t reach me with those arms, so I wasn’t too nervous about it.”
Meanwhile, Ovechkin was restrained in his Ott comments.
“It’s his game,” Ovechkin said. “He’s good player. He’s trying to do everything he can for his team.”
Head coach Adam Oates, however, proved more verbose when discussing Ott’s antics, of which the above incident was only one example. Oates went into detail when asked about Ott’s goading of Steve Oleksy into a fight in the third period—that is, if a fight is considered one player dropping the gloves at the request of another, only to watch his supposed sparring partner skate away. Then there was Ott’s tapping of Backstrom’s helmet on the faceoff. Clearly, Ott’s kindergarten teacher failed him many years ago.
“You let those guys do that, and you wonder why we yell,” Oates said of Ott’s antics and the referees’ response.