Two teams competing for an Eastern Conference wild-card spot will meet when the Washington Capitals visit the Buffalo Sabres for a Sunday matinee.
The Sabres are looking to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since the 2010-11 season, while the Capitals look to make their 15th postseason appearance in 16 seasons.
After managing just 10 goals while losing six straight games, the Capitals exploded for a 6-3 win against the New York Rangers on Saturday.
Offensive stars were numerous as Washington ended its drought. Evgeny Kuznetsov had two goals and two assists, T.J. Oshie had two goals and an assist in his 500th game with Washington, and Tom Wilson scored his third goal in four games and added an assist.
Oshie just missed a hat trick when his second-period shot hit the post, but even that produced good things as teammate Sonny Milano knocked in the loose puck to put the Capitals up 4-1.
“We’ve been working real hard regardless of if we’ve been winning or losing … and tonight was no different,” Oshie said. “You need your big players to step up. I get paid a lot of money to put offense up on the board and haven’t been doing it as of late, so it felt good to get a couple up there.”
Goalie Charlie Lindgren likely will make his second career start against the Sabres — the first one was a Nov. 11, 2017, win when Lindgren played for the Montreal Canadiens — on Sunday. He has allowed three goals in each of his past three starts (1-2).
After a dismal stretch that included the departure of two teammates (Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway) via trade with the Boston Bruins, the Capitals hope it is not too late to turn things around. The Capitals are one of four teams, including the Sabres, with 64 points and stand one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins, who hold the second wild-card spot from the Eastern Conference.
“We win that one tomorrow and we start rolling, who knows?” Wilson said Saturday. “We’re feeling good after tonight, but none of this matters if we don’t show up tomorrow.”
Meanwhile, the Sabres are surging, having won four of their past five games, with all four wins coming on the road.
Buffalo’s most recent win was a 3-1 decision against the Florida Panthers on Friday in the second game of a back-to-back after a 6-5 overtime win against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Jeff Skinner scored twice to reach 600 career points, and Tage Thompson had three assists, one night after recording a hat trick. Craig Anderson made 49 saves.
“Hopefully it gives us some confidence moving forward because that’s kind of going to be the level for us down the stretch here, and we have to bring that every night,” Skinner said about following the win at Tampa Bay with one against Florida.
Thompson (four goals, five assists) and Skinner (four goals, four assists) each enter Sunday with five-game point streaks.
Skinner will play his 908th game without making the playoffs on Sunday, surpassing the mark of 907 games set by former NHL defenseman Ron Hainsey. Hainsey eventually won a Stanley Cup with the Penguins in the 2016-17 season, and Skinner’s team is looking to increase its chances of making the playoffs on Sunday.
“Our goalies are playing well, getting contributions throughout the lineup,” Skinner said. “And that’s what you need this time of year. You need that depth to come up and pay off for you.”
–Field Level Media