BUFFALO The Washington Capitals have had some slow starts this season, but this one led to a significantly different postgame reaction.
For the third time in 10 games, the Caps yielded a goal on the first shot they allowed. That was just the beginning of a flat performance in a 5-0 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at a sold-out HSBC Arena. In two other games, Washington’s foe scored on its third shot on net.
“I don’t know why this is happening, but you could definitely tell there were some guys not ready to play tonight,” Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It is unacceptable. We’ve got some great players, but Mike Green isn’t ready to play and [Alexander Semin] didn’t come to play and Viktor [Kozlov] - I mean, you could go on with some of our skill players just not ready to commit to playing a complete game.”
Added forward Matt Bradley: “There was no effort, no passion. That is what happens. I guess we’re not ready for the game, so that is something we have to address.”
Thomas Vanek had a pair of goals and Ryan Miller turned aside 29 shots to help the Sabres to their seventh win in eight tries in this building against the Caps.
Vanek, who leads the NHL in goals, took a long bank pass off the boards from Andrej Sekera at the offensive blue line, deked past Green and tucked a shot past Jose Theodore on the short side for a 1-0 lead 72 seconds in.
Green is trying to play through an injury to his right foot.
“It is no excuse,” Green said. “I can still play smart and I didn’t play smart. It was just a really bad night for myself.”
Added Boudreau: “If it is [bothering him], it is a rinky-dink excuse. I think he’s a great player, as everybody knows, but with being a great player comes responsibility and it is games like this that you have to step up your game if you want to be into the class that other people think you should be.”
It was the Caps’ second straight game without Alex Ovechkin, who is in Russia with his ill grandfather. Washington did welcome back defenseman Tom Poti from a groin injury but also lost Shaone Morrisonn. He skated only one shift in the second period and did not return; Boudreau said Morrisonn went to a local hospital but did not elaborate.
A parade to the penalty box kept the Caps from having much of a chance to even the score in the first. Washington was called for four infractions in less than 10 minutes, including two 23 seconds apart in the middle of the period.
Four seconds after the Caps killed off a 5-on-3 for 1:38, Derek Roy made it 2-0 with a 5-on-4 marker. Jason Pominville fed Roy along the goal line, who one-timed a shot from the awkward angle off Theodore’s left shoulder and into the net.
Pominville added the final measure of a dominant first 20 minutes for the Sabres. After an ill-advised cross-ice pass from John Erskine to Green, Pominville scooped up a bad rebound and deked twice before tapping the puck past Theodore.
“You don’t want to throw the blame on the goalie when everyone else is not playing well, but I think there was a couple in there he could have had,” Boudreau said of his goaltender. “Even if he had stopped four more shots, we would have lost.”
Washington’s best chance to get back in the contest came early in the second period. A senseless roughing penalty after the whistle by Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad gave the Caps a two-man advantage for 1:19, but they were unable to capitalize.