- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Alex Ovechkin snapped a mini-slump with a goal and two assists, and Ben Clymer matched a career high with a three points, but it wasn’t enough for the Washington Capitals.

The Buffalo Sabres won their seventh straight, coming from behind in the third period to post a 6-4 win against the Caps. Ales Kotalik scored the game-winner with 1:43 left on a shot that just trickled past Caps goalie Brent Johnson, and the final goal went into an empty net as Washington tried vainly to knot the score at the end.

In a entertaining game marked by too many trips to the penalty box by the Caps, Washington had a two-goal lead after one and still held a one-goal margin heading into the third.

But the Caps failed to put the Sabres away. Buffalo ran its record to 43-16-5 last night, third best in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres are 35-7-5 since Nov. 15 and on a 14-1-2 run.

“They just never quit,” coach Lindy Ruff said of his Sabres, a team that has an amazing 8-13-2 record when trailing after two periods. “They battle through adversity and don’t quit. … Again, we demonstrated a lot of resilience and made enough plays.”

Still, former Cap Mike Grier insists his Buffalo team isn’t playing as well as it had been.

“We’re not playing nearly as well defensively as we have been,” he said. “In some part of our game we’re a little overconfident because the goals are going in so easily for us.”

Clymer had a goal and an assist in the first and a goal in the second but wasn’t happy with the end result.

“This really stinks, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “We’ve got a game [tomorrow] in New York against a really good team, so we have to identify some of the things we did wrong. It’s definitely going to make sleeping tough tonight.”

Ovechkin had gone two straight games without a point but notched an assist on the first Clymer goal. He later added his 43th goal and another assist to give him 82 points.

No Caps player has had 82 points in a season since center Adam Oates did it in 2000-01. The last player to have more than 82 points was Peter Bondra, who had 85 in 1992-93. Ovechkin’s total ties him with Mikael Renberg of Philadelphia, who had 82 points in 1993-94 for fourth place on the all-time rookie list. With 19 games left, Teemu Selanne’s record of 132 points seems safely out of reach.

Team captain Jeff Halpern also scored for Washington.

Clymer’s first of the night tied the score nearly eight minutes into the game. Matt Bradley and Brian Muir took minor penalties at the same instant 25 seconds later, giving Buffalo a two-man advantage for two full minutes.

But Washington killed the disadvantage with relative ease, allowing three harmless shots. The situation seemed like a momentum builder for the Caps, and they forged a 3-1 advantage with two goals eight seconds apart. But the resilient Sabres fought back for two goals in the second and three more in the third after falling behind again.

Notes — Center Brian Sutherby missed only one game with his groin problem, so Boyd Gordon was sent to Hershey. Going with Gordon was newly reacquired center Kris Beech, sent down now to get around waiver difficulties later. To fill the vacant forward roster spot, the Caps brought Jakub Klepis back from Hershey. Defenseman Nolan Yonkman was the lone healthy scratch as the Caps played their second game of the season with no injuries.

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