- Associated Press - Friday, November 25, 2016

WASHINGTON (AP) - Washington goalie Philipp Grubauer insisted his focus Friday night was like any other, even with his parents watching for the first time.

Whatever he did worked.

Grubauer made 32 saves in relief of normal starter Braden Holtby, helping the Capitals scrap their way to a 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.

“When the puck drops, it’s all business,” said the German-born Grubauer, who also turned 25 on the day his parents first watched their son in an NHL arena. “But it’s pretty special for me. It’s one of my favorite moments.”

Marcus Johansson scored his eighth goal of the season, and Daniel Winnik and Brett Connolly also added goals as Washington closed its five-game homestand with its fourth victory.

Connolly’s goal on a late third-period power play added some needed insurance.

With Holtby resting for Saturday’s game at Toronto, Grubauer made 26 saves after the first intermission, and seven seven came against a Buffalo power play that entered Friday ranked ninth in efficiency.

“He played really well, (and) we played well in front of him,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said of Grubauer, who has won three of his five starts. “When things got a little hairy on the penalty kill, he came up with a couple of big stops.”

Sam Reinhart’s third-period goal helped Buffalo’s NHL-worst offense avoid being shut out for the third this time this season. The Sabres are averaging 1.81 goals.

Anders Nilsson made 29 stops for the Sabres, as coach Dan Bylsma also gave No. 1 netminder Robin Lehner the night off.

“We don’t have the bounces with us right now,” Nilsson said. “We’ve been having to work really hard for every goal we score. Hopefully we can turn it around soon.”

Two days after Alex Ovechkin’s hat trick pushed the Capitals to a 4-3 victory over St. Louis, Washington grinded out a more workmanlike victory, with each goal coming off a rebound or redirection.

Winnik put Washington ahead early in the first after Lars Eller’s shot from the left struck off Nilsson’s pads.

Johansson made it 2-0 about a third of the way through the second on another broken play that began when he found Justin Williams on the right to spark an odd-man rush.

Williams tried to pass across the crease to Nicklas Backstrom. The puck knocked off defender Josh Gorges’ skate and to the trailing Johansson, who beat Nilsson over his stick side.

Reinhart cut it to 2-1 midway through the third. But the Capitals added insurance on their fourth power play with 3:55 left, as Connolly slammed home a rebound after Ovechkin forced Nilsson into another pad save.

“It was a good time of the game to get one,” Connolly said. “They were coming pretty hard there and it was good to see that one go in.”

Buffalo was left frustrated by its inability to find a similar goal.

“I think we could’ve probably had more than a handful of scoring chances with the power play, but nothing to show for it,” Bylsma said.

NOTES: The Capitals have earned at least a point in 13 of their last 15 home games against the Sabres. … The Sabres have scored two goals or fewer in 12 of their last 13 games. … Washington RW Nate Schmidt was a healthy scratch for the first time this homestand. … Buffalo makes its second and final regular-season trip to Washington on Dec. 5, just 10 days after its first.

UP NEXT

Sabres: Close a two-game road trip at Ottawa on Tuesday.

Capitals: Conclude their fourth back-to-back set of the season at Toronto on Saturday.

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