Capitals 3, Sabres 2
-- Three players whose names had been missing from recent game summaries scored for Washington, and the league's hardest-working goalie, Olie Kolzig, was granted a rare reprieve Wednesday night at Blue Cross Arena, where the Capitals skated to a 3-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
The win snapped the Capitals' two-game slide, and, more notably, it marked the first time in 10 games they had outshot an opponent (28-17). They entered averaging 23.2 shots and yielding 40.6, each the worst number in the NHL.
"We did a great job," Coach Glen Hanlon said. "It's the difference of not giving up 40 shots. It's a refreshing change."
Defenseman Jamie Heward scored the game-winner on a five-on-three power play early in the third period. The score was Heward's first goal in seven games and the Capitals' first power play goal since the team's fourth game, ending an 0-for-26 slump.
"We should be happy and be able to build off of this," Heward said. "It was a good, full hockey game for us."
Washington's other goal scorers, Petr Sykora and Jeff Friesen, also saw lengthy droughts end against the Sabres.
Sykora hadn't registered a point in regulation since scoring his first NHL goal on Oct. 10 against the New York Rangers. (He netted the game-winner in penalty shots vs. Tampa Bay on Oct. 16.) Friesen's goal was his first as a Capital; he also had not tallied a point since the Rangers game.
The Capitals' win came in an unfamiliar place: at the home rink of Buffalo's AHL affiliate, the Americans, and in front of a boisterous crowd of 8,552. It's the second consecutive season the Sabres have played here as part of an NHL promotion aimed at attracting fans from the Rochester area to games at HSBC Arena in Buffalo.
The Capitals' victory, somewhat surprisingly, came without veteran defenseman Brendan Witt, who has been away from the team since Saturday while tending to his family and South Florida house, which was damaged by Hurricane Wilma. Team officials were optimistic that Witt, arguably the club's best defenseman and a locker room leader, would be back for Friday's game in Tampa Bay.
Buffalo's Ales Kotalik opened the scoring with a power play goal with about five minutes remaining in the first period. Friesen's goal, set up by a Sabres' turnover, came 22 seconds later.
Sykora's score came less than two minutes into the second period and put the visitors ahead, 2-1. Jochen Hecht's third-period power-play goal tied the game at 2, and Heward's blast from top of the circle with seven seconds remaining on the two-man advantage beat rookie Ryan Miller's glove hand to clinch it 4 minutes 22 seconds into the final frame. Rookie Alex Ovechkin was awarded an assist.
"As a team, we played a whole lot better," Friesen said. "It was absolutely our best game. Hopefully it's a sign of things to come."
Capitals Notes: The team filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington Wednesday against International Sports Advisors Company, the agency that represents suspended left wing Alexander Semin. Semin is named in the lawsuit, along with New Jersey-based agent Mark Gandler and his agency. Semin declined to report to the Capitals' minor league team during the NHL lockout, then failed to arrive for training camp last month.
The lawsuit seeks damages in the amount the Capitals have fined Semin -- $1,000 per day since his suspension began on Sept. 28, 2004 -- as well as the money the club has spent in its attempt to replace him. That would be the $2.28 million the Capitals owe Friesen, who was acquired from New Jersey in September, once it was clear Semin's return was questionable at best. The Capitals are represented by Proskauer Rose.
Semin, a talented but enigmatic 21-year-old Russian, amassed 10 goals and 12 assists in 52 games for the Capitals in 2003-04. But he has since skated for Lada Togliatti of the Russian Super League. Semin's representatives claim Russian officials have refused to allow him to leave the country because he has not fulfilled his two years of mandatory military service -- an assertion the Caps do not believe.
Capitals General Manager George McPhee issued the following statement: "We have done everything we could to avoid this step, but we felt we had no choice but to now seek a legal remedy. This filing seeks to compel Alexander Semin's agent and the Russian hockey team Lada Togliatti to return Alex to the Washington Capitals."
Gandler did not immediately return a message.