BUFFALO | The high-flying Washington Capitals have been scoring goals at a prodigious pace of late. Ryan Miller put an end to that.
Miller made 35 saves and stifled the leagues top offense in a 3-0 victory for the Buffalo Sabres against the Caps on Wednesday night at HSBC Arena. A leading candidate for the Vezina trophy and to start for Team USA in the forthcoming Winter Olympics, Miller led the NHL in goals-against average (1.90) and save percentage (.935) coming into the night and padded those numbers with a mix of brilliance and steady play.
The loss snapped a six-game winning streak for the Eastern Conference-leading Caps. Since Nov. 1, Washington is 9-0-2 against teams from the East that weren’t in the top eight before Wednesday’s games, but just 2-4-1 against the other top seven clubs after the loss to Buffalo.
Buffalo’s Steve Montador was credited with his second goal of the season to start the scoring. His shot from the right point hit Milan Jurcina in front of the net and knuckled over the left shoulder of Washington netminder Jose Theodore 4:06 into the first period.
After a slow start to the middle period, the Sabres struck twice in the final six minutes to expand their lead. Diminutive forward Nathan Gerbe made it 2-0 with a power-play goal at 14:42. Gerbe’s shot from along the goal line squeezed in off the inside of Theodore’s right leg for his first career NHL goal.
Henrik Tallinder skated the puck from behind his net into the Caps’ offensive end and was able to be the rebound of his first shot past Theodore for his second of the season.
The Caps were without two defensemen — Shaone Morrisonn and Brian Pothier — for an extended stretch in the second period. Morrisonn returned but not before Mike Green went to the box for high-sticking, which led to Tyler Sloan shifting back to defense during the Buffalo power play that Gerbe scored on.
Pothier did not return, and he missed the final 28-plus minutes of the contest.
Alex Ovechkin was not much of a factor in this contest, his second since returning from a two-game suspension. Much of the credit for keeping him in check goes to Buffalo rookie defenseman Tyler Myers, who was matched up against the two-time MVP for most of the night. The 19-year-old Myers stands 6-foot-8, and his long reach helped him bother guys on Washington’s top line.
Note — Semyon Varlamov (lower body) and Mathieu Perreault (illness) missed the game because of injury. Michal Neuvirth was recalled to backup Theodore, and Keith Aucoin to replace Perreault.