- - Saturday, November 26, 2011

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Nine — yes, nine Buffalo Sabres players, count ‘em — are hurt. Forty-five percent of their regular lineup sat Saturday. Eight rookies dressed. Six of the 20 players began the season in the minors.

Still, the Washington Capitals couldn’t down the injury-ravaged Sabres, giving a miserable effort in a 5-1 loss before a capacity crowd of 18,690 fans inside First Niagara Center.

The defeat, the Capitals‘ sixth in their last eight games, comes just a week after a beat-up Maple Leafs team throttled them 7-1 in Toronto.

But the Capitals responded to that embarrassing loss by winning two straight last week. Now, they’ve dropped two in a row again.

“I think we played a pretty good two games,” said winger Jason Chimera, who scored his team–best ninth goal on a second-period penalty shot. “We come up with crap again.”

What about failing to exploit another team filled with neophytes and journeymen?

“You got to take advantage of teams that are hurt,” Chimera said. “You get guys called up, they’re playing their butts off because they want to be here. Sometimes they make a difference.

“You get guys on our team that have been around a long time. They get complacent a bit, don’t expect them to work hard. Then they outwork you.”

Captain Alex Ovechkin said, “You just have to work,” a sentiment many players echoed.

“You’re going to be frustrated,” Ovechkin, who was a minus-4 along with linemate Nicklas Backstrom, said quietly in the visiting dressing room. “You’re going to be frustrated after they score. If you’re going to look sad about yourself, it’s not going to work. It’s a 60-minute game. You have to come back and play, right?”

The Capitals never did, however. After falling behind 2-0 just 15:23 into the game, they missed a glorious chance to seize the momentum.

At 6:39 of the second period, Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff knocked Chimera down on a breakaway. Ehrhoff was irate, arguing he had swatted the puck first. Chimera then roofed a shot past Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth.

Just 27 seconds later,  Sabres rookie Zack Kassian scored his first NHL goal in his second contest, his pedestrian shot from the right circle trickling between Tomas Vokoun’s pads.

The Sabres grabbed all the energy back.

“I think it was quite a blow,” coach Bruce Boudreau said. “The bench was really buzzing, was pretty into that after that. You could tell. And then when they scored that goal it was quite deflating.”

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