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Capitals Defeat Sabres, 4-2

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By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 31, 2008

BUFFALO, Dec. 30 -- After 2 1/2 months of juggling his goaltenders, hoping for one to step forward and seize the starter's role, the waiting might be over for Washington Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau.

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José Theodore made 31 saves to record his fourth consecutive victory on Tuesday night, prospect Chris Bourque notched his first NHL goal and the power play struck twice to lift the streaking Capitals to a 4-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres at HSBC Arena.

Brooks Laich, Nicklas Backstrom and Boyd Gordon also tallied for the Capitals, who have won nine of their past 10 games, opened a 12-point lead in the Southeast Division and, perhaps more importantly, proved they can win in Buffalo. The victory was only their second in nine games (2-7-0) here, avenged a humbling 5-0 defeat on Nov. 1 and gave them a win in four of their last five road games.

"Everybody played with confidence tonight," said Theodore, who ended a personal five-game losing streak in Buffalo, dating back to his days in Montreal. "It was time to put everything aside and play the way we can and that's what we did tonight."

No one, though, displayed more confidence than Theodore, who, since being pulled in the first period of the come-from-behind victory over the Rangers in New York one week ago, has stopped 95 of 101 shots and been one of the Capitals' most consistent players.

"He was very good," Boudreau said. "Really solid tonight."

Before the game, Boudreau implored his players "exorcise our demons from this building" in an effort to "overcome those thoughts and believe you can win everywhere."

It was apparent that the Capitals were intent on doing just that early, as they raced to a 2-0 lead on scores by Laich and Bourque coupled with some outstanding goaltending by Theodore and a sub-par performance by Sabres netminder Ryan Miller (27 saves).

Laich finished one of the prettiest power plays of the season 1 minute 57 seconds into the game, firing in a rebound after a series of tic-tac-toe passes between Alex Ovechkin, Viktor Kozlov and Backstrom. Laich, standing in front, notched his sixth goal in nine games to put the Capitals ahead 1-0.

"Rebounds were the key tonight; we scored three rebounds and an empty netter," Boudreau said.

Bourque, who was recalled Tuesday when it appeared Donald Brashear (bruised leg) might not play, extended the Capitals' lead to 2-0 with his first NHL goal in his ninth career game. Again, the play began with a series of crisp passes, beginning with an on-the-mark breakout pass by Tyler Sloan, who was recalled earlier in the day to replace Karl Alzner, who sat out with a bruised hand.

Bourque skated hard to the slot, and when David Steckel's shot rebounded right to him off of Miller's pads, whipped it into the corner.


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