Sabres Beat Capitals, 5-0, in NHL Game

Capitals goalie José Theodore reacts after the Sabres scored their third goal of the first period. Theodore had 22 saves in the game.
Capitals goalie José Theodore reacts after the Sabres scored their third goal of the first period. Theodore had 22 saves in the game. (By Don Heupel -- Associated Press)
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 2, 2008

BUFFALO, Nov. 1 -- Facing a potent opponent coming off back-to-back embarrassments at home, the last thing the Alex Ovechkin-less Washington Capitals could afford was a sluggish start.

They had one anyway.

Thomas Vanek and the Buffalo Sabres capitalized on the Capitals' early miscue-ridden play, scoring three times in the first period, and cruised to a 5-0 victory on Saturday night before 18,690 at HSBC Arena.

The loss was Washington's worst since losing by the same margin in Chicago this past March. It was also the Capitals' first time being shut out since that Blackhawks game, and it marked their seventh loss in eight visits to Buffalo.

"I wish I had an answer," Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I believe we were one of the better first-period clubs last year, so I don't know why this is happening. But you could definitely tell there were some guys not ready to play tonight. And it's unacceptable. We've got some great players, but Mike Green isn't ready to play and Sasha [Semin] didn't come to play and Viktor [Kozlov]. You can go on."

The lopsided loss, however, wasn't the Capitals' only concern as they filed out of the visitors' dressing room. Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn left the game in the second period and was taken to a local hospital for a CT scan. The team did not immediately provide details of the injury; it also was unclear whether Morrisonn would travel home Saturday night.

As for the pain inflicted on the rest of the team, it came early and often.

The Capitals have now allowed 15 first-period goals and have yielded a goal on the opponent's first shot three times. On Saturday, that honor went to Vanek, who skated right around Green and scored the first of his two goals only 72 seconds in.

"It was a really bad night for myself," Green said. Vanek "kind of got a step on me there. He made a really good move. It was my fault. Bruce mentioned which guys aren't going to be ready for the game. If he can see it, all of us know what's wrong."

Vanek's second tally, his league-leading 11th, came with three seconds remaining in the second period, and for the most part, typified the Capitals' night: A back-checking Boyd Gordon crashed into José Theodore (22 saves) as the puck crossed the goal line. Theodore has yielded five goals twice and four once in his eight starts.

"You don't want to throw the blame on the goalie when everybody else is not playing well," said Boudreau, whose team's two-game winning streak was snapped. "But I think there were a couple in there he could have had. But even if he had stopped four more shots, we would have lost by one."

Ovechkin, meantime, missed his second consecutive game while visiting his ailing grandfather in Russia. Barring anything unforeseen, he's scheduled to return to Washington on Sunday and rejoin the team for practice on Monday.

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