The Washington Capitals pulled off third-period comebacks in their first two preseason games, but sloppy and disjointed play prevented a third straight rally.
It was the first preseason game for stars Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Mike Green, but the increase in talent did not lead to more offense in a 2-1 defeat Monday night to the Buffalo Sabres at Verizon Center.
"It is sort of expected," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau said. "These guys, it is their first game, and that's the way they played it as. Their timing was off, but that's why you have preseason games."
The Sabres scored a pair of goals 11 seconds apart in the second period. Drew Stafford tipped in a shot from the top of the circle, and then Patrick Kaleta jammed the puck past goaltender Jose Theodore with little resistance from his Washington teammates.
Keith Aucoin potted his first of the preseason a little more than five minutes later. His shot was heading wide left, but the puck hit 6-foot-7 defenseman Tyler Myers in the leg and banked into the cage.
"I thought our line got going pretty good once we got our feet under us," said Aucoin, who centered Alexandre Giroux and Semin. "We had a few chances. I wish we could have gotten the power play going a little better, but otherwise I thought we played well."
Washington's power play sputtered, failing to capitalize on five chances. The Caps mustered only three shots on net during 13 minutes of power-play time. Boudreau said the groups hadn't practiced together until Monday morning.
Theodore stopped 19 of 21 shots in his first work of the exhibition season. He had to wait for his opportunity while young goalies Semyon Varlamov and Michal Neuvirth had solid performances.
"I thought [Theodore] was fine," Boudreau said. "Everything that he saw he stopped. I didn't think there were a tremendous amount of chances, but he did what he was supposed to do and kept us in the game."