WASHINGTON – The Buffalo Sabres are now getting the bounces that didn’t go their way earlier this season.
Jochen Hecht had two goals and an assist to lead the Buffalo Sabres to their season-high fifth straight victory, 3-1 over the Washington Capitals on Monday night. Buffalo struggled in the first part of the season despite often playing well, and coach Lindy Ruff said the breaks and bounces now are going his team’s way.
“We had two or three games before (the streak) we deserved to win; we did everything but win,” Ruff said. “We out-played, we outshot and we got nothing for it. (But) we got a couple of bounces to start the streak and ever since then, guys have kind of lightened up and played even better.”
Hecht scored Buffalo’s first two goals, with the second snapping a 1-1 tie in the second period. He then assisted on Jason Pominville’s insurance goal later in the period at the end of a 2-on-1 breakaway.
A fortunate bounce gave Hecht his first goal. He fired a crossing pass across the crowded crease, and it hit a leg or a foot and bounced in.
A bad Washington pass landed near Hecht to start the breakaway that gave the Sabres their third goal, another fortunate break.
“Finally things seem to go our way,” Hecht said. “Before we were trying to make those pretty plays, through the legs, through the skates, and it just didn’t work for us. It seems like those are the goals that are more common in the league … odd bounces.”
Washington had won consecutive games since Bruce Boudreau took over as interim coach last Thursday. The Capitals beat Philadelphia and Carolina after Boudreau replaced the fired Glen Hanlon.
Washington again showed the more aggressive offence that’s been its trademark under Boudreau, finding several scoring chances and getting 31 shots, but Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller made 30 saves and improved his career record to 6-1 against the Capitals.
“We played with energy,” Boudreau said. “We played as hard as (Buffalo) and as good as them, just not as smart as them. You can’t have turnovers against a great transition team in the neutral zones and both goals cost us.”
The Sabres have totalled 10 goals in two wins over the Capitals this season.
Hecht nearly had a hat trick, but Kolzig robbed him from right in front during the third period.
Buffalo took a 1-0 lead 10:55 into the game when Hecht’s cross deflected in.
Alex Ovechkin tied it by scoring on the rebound of his own shot 49 seconds into the second period after racing down the left wing.
But Hecht then helped the Sabres take command by scoring the go-ahead goal and assisting on another in the second period. Hecht gave Buffalo the lead for good by flipping a quick Daniel Paille pass past Kolzig at 8:07.
Pominville closed the scoring by redirecting a perfect pass from Hecht with 8:13 left in the second period. Hecht directed the 2-on-1 breakaway that started after an errant drop pass from Washington’s Michael Nylander.
Notes: Ovechkin’s current nine-game points streak is his longest since his career-best of 13 games last season. … Steve Eminger’s assist on Ovechkin’s goal was his first point this season. … Hecht’s first goal was originally credited to Michael Ryan, but scoring officials changed it later. … Pominville also scored a goal in Buffalo’s 7-3 victory over the Capitals last month, and this goal ended a 14-goal streak without one.