BUFFALO, N.Y. – Jason Pominville was simply happy that everybody was still in one piece after the Buffalo Sabres’ victory over the Washington Capitals.
Luke Adam scored twice, Jhonas Enroth made 26 saves, and Zack Kassian scored his first NHL goal to help injury-riddled Buffalo beat Washington 5-1 on Saturday night.
Despite playing without nine regulars—including defenceman Robyn Regehr (upper body) and forward Drew Stafford (lower body), who were both hurt Friday night in a loss to Columbus—the Sabres played one of their best games of the season to snap a three-game winless streak.
“It was great to get through this one without any injuries,” Pominville said half-kiddingly. “It’s fun to see guys come up, be prepared, and be ready to play.”
Enroth made his seventh straight start for injured starter Ryan Miller (concussion).
Along with Miller, Regehr, and Stafford, the Sabres were also without forwards Tyler Ennis (ankle), Cody McCormick (upper body), Brad Boyes (right leg), Patrick Kaleta (lower body), and defencemen Tyler Myers (broken wrist), and Mike Weber (upper body).
The Sabres have had three players make their NHL debut in each of the last three games. Against Washington, it was defenceman Brayden McNabb’s turn after being recalled from Rochester of the AHL, while journeyman Paul Szczechura also was recalled from Rochester on Saturday and picked up a pair of assists.
It was Szczechura’s first NHL action since April 2, 2010, when he was with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It’s the longest (injury) list I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” said Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff, who began his Sabres coaching career in 1997.
Kassian, Buffalo’s top prospect, played in his first NHL game against the Blue Jackets, and his first goal of his career came just 27 seconds after Washington’s Jason Chimera converted a penalty shot in the second period to cut the Sabres’ lead to 2-1.
“We have a lot of guys out of the lineup, so as a call-up you just want to keep it simple, work hard every night, and do your job,” Kassian said. “You have to try and give your team a chance to win, and play your role. You’re not going out there to be a game changer.”
Pominville and Jochen Hecht also scored to help the Sabres (13-9-1) win for the first time in four games at home.
“You have to play hard every night regardless if you have your full lineup or not,” said Adam, who had his second two-goal game of the season and his career. “You can’t afford to make mistakes, and you need everyone going every night.”
The Capitals (12-9-1) looked very much like the team that has been listless throughout a 3-7-1 stretch. They’ve now lost four straight on the road by a combined score of 19-4.
“We try our best and know how we have to play, but we don’t play,” said Alex Ovechkin, who was a minus-4, tying a career high. “We make mistakes in our zone and it costs us goals and costs us games.”
Tomas Vokoun had little help in front of him, and finished with 23 saves.
“This group has got to learn how to be mentally strong,” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “It hasn’t had a lot of adversity in the last four years, unless it was in the playoffs. Now we’ve reached some adversity, and some guys are having a hard time with it.”
Adam extended Buffalo’s lead to 4-1 just 1:12 into the third with his second of the game, sending a wrist shot past Vokoun from the right circle.
Hecht made it 5-1 with a breakaway goal while Buffalo was short-handed with 5:21 left in the third.
Chimera converted his penalty shot attempt 6:39 into the second to make it 2-1. He was hauled down by Buffalo defenceman Christian Ehrhoff.
Kassian pushed Buffalo’s lead to 3-1 when his snap shot from the right circle squirted between Vokoun’s pads.
Adam opened the scoring midway through the first period, snapping home a shot from the slot after Washington defenceman Dennis Wideman’s clearing attempt went off of Szczechura.
Pominville made it 2-0 with 4:37 left in the first when he banged home a rebound from in tight.
“The last couple of weeks have been rough on the injury front,” Adam said. “The guys that have come up have done an awesome job.”
NOTES: Szczechura picked up his first points since March 25, 2010, while with Tampa Bay. … Washington D John Erskine missed his fourth game because of a shoulder injury. … The Capitals dropped to 5-1-1 against the Sabres in the last seven meetings. … The Sabres snapped a three-game losing streak to Washington. … Buffalo had stopped seven straight penalty shots before Chimera cashed in.