The Washington Capitals were happy to be home and to test themselves against another division leader.
Jakub Vrana scored twice, Tom Wilson had a goal and two assists and the Capitals got out to a quick start and beat the Buffalo Sabres 6-1 on Friday night.
Brendan Leipsic added his first goal for his new team and assisted Chandler Stephenson as Washington scored four times in the first 11 minutes of the first period for the first time since March 2013. T.J. Oshie also scored, and Braden Holtby made 29 saves in the victory in the Metropolitan Division leaders’ first game following five on the road.
“I think we were excited to get back home, for sure,” Wilson said. “We’re worried about what’s going on in our room. I don’t know if you came up with the measuring stick game, but we’re worried about our identity. It’s early in the year.”
Michal Kempny added three assists and Travis Boyd had two as the Capitals won their third straight and improved to 7-0-1 in their last eight games.
“I think we’re really confident right now,” Vrana said. “We have lots of energy. Especially when we came back from that road trip. That brings us a lot of energy.”
Henri Jokiharju scored his first NHL goal for the Sabres, who lost back-to-back games for the first time this season. Linus Ullmark stopped 28 shots for Buffalo. He allowed more than four goals for the first time in six starts this season.
The Capitals opened the scoring with a pair of goals on the break 42 seconds apart.
Vrana made it 1-0 when he reached Wilson’s pass, then scored between Ullmark’s pads. Then on a three-man rush, Leipsic and Boyd connected to set up Stephenson, who got Ullmark to commit, and scored on a backhander from close range with 13:01 left in the first.
The onslaught continued with Vrana scoring his second, taking a cross-ice pass from Kempny and beating Ullmark inside the right post. It was 4-0 with 9:16 left in the period on another one-timer, this time from Leipsic after Boyd skated behind the net and sent his feed in front.
“We’re disappointed with what happened in the first period,” Sabres coach Ralph Krueger said. “We got away from the simple game and the decisions we needed to make with the puck. We gave them, really, everything they got in the first period.”
Jokiharju scored midway through the second, on a shot that deflected off the back of Capitals defender John Carlson and over Holtby on its way across the goal line. But Washington got a good bounce not long after, when Wilson redirected Kempny’s shot from just inside the blue line past Ullmark to make it 5-1.
Oshie added his goal on Kempny’s third assist in the third period. That completed Washington’s first six-goal performance without overtime this season, with all the scoring coming at even strength.
“It felt good to get all four lines out there and everyone contributing,” Wilson said. “The power play is definitely one of our best attributes. But on a night like tonight, everyone chipped in and helped get the win.”
Up next, the Capitals host Calgary on Sunday.
NOTES: Carlson, who was named the NHL’s First Star for October, is without a point in two of his last three games for the first time this season. … Although Sabres D Brandon Mountour is expected to return soon from a preseason hand injury, he remained inactive Friday. … Capitals C Lars Eller became the second Danish-born NHL player to reach 700 games. Detroit’s Frans Nielsen (847) was the first. … The Sabres outshot the Capitals 16-11 in the first period.
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