It certainly wasn’t the most polished effort by the Capitals on Friday night, and there are kinks to work out when it comes to defensive zone coverage and communication, particularly when considering all the new players on the roster.
But the consensus after the 4-3 shootout win against the Buffalo Sabres is that Washington, with its most complete NHL lineup of the preseason, managed to build its confidence with a strong third period that forced the extra sessions.
“I thought it was really important tonight” to try to build chemistry, Coach Bruce Boudreau said. “This was the first time we had most of our guys playing and we were playing a really good Eastern Conference team. We wanted to gain confidence in ourselves. Yeah, we know we’re pretty good when we play as hard as we can. I thought we can get better, and we will get better, but that’s as good, or better, than we’ve played so far.”
The Capitals controlled the play at the very start of the game, but after Nicklas Backstrom’s opening goal and the breakdown that led to Jason Pominville’s tally 20 seconds later they experienced some miscues and bad bounces in their own end.
Washington would go on to trail 2-1, then tie the game on a goal by Mike Green — though neither he nor Boudreau seemed to think he touched the puck before it crossed the line — only to fall behind again when Tomas Vanek made it 3-2 with nearly 14 minutes elapsed in the second period.
Facing a one-goal deficit at the start of the third, though, the Capitals found a way to correct their mistakes and dictate play. While it is only preseason, this time is necessary for the whole NHL roster to get up to game speed together.
“We finally pieced it together tonight. Hopefully we play a full 60 game on Sunday and go from there,” said Green, who added that there is a gradual uptick in intensity as the preseason draws to a close.
“I think it’s natural,” he said. “We’re starting to wind down to our roster and guys are getting ready to actually play and get focused on the season. I feel like training camp’s one thing and once the season starts you change your” mind-set.
Said Matt Hendricks, who added his second goal of the preseason in the third period to force overtime: “It’s a good time for us to get the cobwebs out, get the new systems underway and get prepared and ready and focus in on 82 regular season games.”
Washington has one more opportunity for a dress rehearsal that won’t leave any real mark on the season on Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks in what should be the closest thing to a normal game one can expect out of the preseason.