WASHINGTON – Before Sunday’s game, Capitals coach Adam Oates had a feeling Jason Chimera was getting close to breaking out of his scoreless slump.
He was right.
Chimera scored his first regular-season goal in nearly a year and the Capitals held on for a 5-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night, raising expectations that Chimera and Washington’s offence might be finding their form.
Troy Brouwer, Marcus Johansson and Matthieu Perrault all added a goal and an assist for the Capitals, who broke out of an offensive funk in which they had scored only seven times in five games—losing four.
And Alex Ovechkin got the Capitals (12-15-1) going with his 350th NHL goal, just 19 seconds in, and Washington beat Buffalo at home for the seventh time in eight games.
Now, as they attempt a playoff push, they’re hoping Chimera can be a more frequent contributor. Washington ended the night six points out of a playoff spot.
“I told him, yesterday in (Saturday’s 4-1 loss) against Boston, we had 11 chances and he was involved in six of them,” Oates said of Chimera, who scored 20 goals a season ago. “That means you’re doing some good things.”
Cody Hodgson scored twice for the Sabres (10-15-4), who have lost five straight road games and have won just once in seven games overall.
Brian Flynn also scored for Buffalo, which will play four of its next five on the road. The Sabres outshot the Capitals 30-25.
“I thought we were pretty good overall, and they just scored,” said Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller. “I’m not saying it’s a good effort, but they didn’t have a ton of shots, and we tried to be in the shooting lanes. We messed up a few coverages, and I messed up myself.”
Washington busted out of its scoring slump with three goals during a 5:22 stretch of the second period.
Brouwer got it started on the Capitals’ first power play when he took Mike Ribeiro’s feed and beat Miller to the top left corner.
Four minutes later, Brouwer found Chimera from behind the net for Chimera’s first regular-season goal since April 2, 2012. He went scoreless 29 games.
“It’s a good feeling (to score), but the win is more important to our team right now,” Chimera said.
Less than a minute later, Johansson squeezed a shot out of a goal-mouth scrap to make it 4-1 at 10:28.
Flynn got Buffalo within two goals at 13:27 off a feed from Marcus Foligno.
Hodgson scored a power-play goal early in the third to make it 4-3 after Jordan Leopold’s effort from the left caromed to him off the pads of goalie Braden Holtby.
It was Buffalo’s first power-play goal in four games.
Washington killed a penalty later in the period, and just after it ended, Holtby made a full stretch to deny a clear look from Drew Safford.
Perrault scored on the Capitals’ next trip into the offensive zone to seal the win with just under five minutes to play.
“I don’t think we can really afford to get too frustrated,” said Hodgson, who is second on the Sabres with 12 goals. “Obviously it’s frustrating to give up those goals and then when we do work our way back we try to stay positive. But at the end of the day, we need to win and it’s something we can’t keep doing.”
The Sabres outshot the Capitals 17-10 in the second period, and Hodgson scored their first goal just 12 seconds into it when he sneaked a shot past Holtby.
That got the Sabres even. Ovechkin had staked the Capitals to their quick lead in the opening seconds off a faceoff feed from Nicklas Backstrom.
Ovechkin, who leads the Capitals with 11 goals, has scored six times in seven games against the Sabres. Backstrom finished with two assists.
“We need to win every day,” Ovechkin said of the Capitals’ situation. “This kind of situation, you have to do everything you can, game by game.”
NOTES: A brief lighting malfunction delayed the start of the third period for about six minutes. … Buffalo recalled D Mark Pysyk from AHL Rochester. D Andrej Sekera left Saturday’s game because of an injury in the third period. … Washington will begin a four-game, six-day trip Tuesday at Pittsburgh. … Sabres LW Thomas Vanek stretched his point streak to nine games with an assist during the first period. … The Capitals recognized U.S. Olympic swimming gold medallist and area native Katie Ledecky, who attended the game to celebrate her 16th birthday.