Marcus Johansson deflected in Mathieu Perreault's shot midway through the third period to lift the slumping Washington Capitals to a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday.
Perreault finished with a goal and assist in helping the Capitals win for only the second time in their past six games. Alex Ovechkin had an assist on the decisive goal, giving him his first point in his past five trips to Buffalo, dating to a two-goal outing on March 5, 2008.
Jason Pominville scored for the Sabres, who dropped their third straight and are winless in their past four home games (0-3-1). In the midst of a six-game homestand, Buffalo squandered yet another opportunity to inch closer to playoff contention. The Sabres (27-25-6) remain in ninth place in the Eastern Conference standings, four points behind Carolina.
Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller had a superb game despite the loss. He stopped 37 shots, including the first 21 he faced in a game in which the Sabres were outshot 39-29 overall and 16-8 in the first period.
Ovechkin set up the decisive goal by driving up the right wing and getting a hard shot off from the circle. Miller got his blocker out in time to make the stop, but the rebound bounced directly to Perreault in the left circle. He blasted a shot that deflected in off Johansson as he was crossing the crease.
The goal came on the power play, a minute after Buffalo's Shaone Morrisonn was penalized for interference. The Capitals finally converted a power-play chance after going 0 for 4 to open the game.
Perreault opened the scoring 6:09 into the second period by taking advantage of an opportunistic bounce. Matt Hendricks dumped the puck into the Sabres' end high off the boards, and the puck took a strange carom off a divider in the corner. The puck bounced directly to Perreault, who was alone in front of the net and whacked it past Miller.
The Sabres got that back just under three minutes later when Thomas Vanek fed Pominville alone at the left point, where he unleashed a shot that beat Semyon Varlamov over the left shoulder.
The Capitals failed to blow the game open in the first period when their sputtering power play — which was 1 for 18 in its previous six games — failed to capitalize on four consecutive chances, including a two-man advantage spanning 1:35. Washington had its chances only to be foiled by Miller, who stopped Nicklas Backstrom twice the two-man power play.
The first came when Ovechkin's shot from the left point deflected off two players in front and landed on Backstrom's stick to the right of the net. Miller got across and made a sweeping glove save. A minute later, Backstrom had the puck alone to the right of the net again and whiffed on his opportunity, missing the open side and instead shooting the puck into Miller's pad.
Miller and the Sabres' penalty killers were rewarded with a standing ovation from the crowd after both penalties expired.
Miller was exceptionally sharp earlier in the period. He got his pad out to stop Brooks Laich's backhander from the slot and then, seconds later, got his glove up to knock down Backstrom's snap shot from 20 feet.
Notes: Capitals D Mike Green missed his fourth straight game with an inner ear infection. ... Struggling Sabres D Andrej Sekera, who has gone 19 games without a point, was a healthy scratch. ... The Capitals complete their five-game road swing at Pittsburgh on Monday. The Capitals are 2-0-1 against the Penguins, and it's the teams' first meeting at Pittsburgh since Washington's 3-1 win in the Winter Classic on Jan. 1. That was a game in which Pens' captain Sidney Crosby took a hit to the head from David Steckel. .... Sabres C Paul Gaustad played his 400th career game. ... This marked the fourth time in the Capitals past six games they entered the third period tied. They lost each of the previous three times, including a 3-2 loss at San Jose on Thursday.