Caps keep Sabres from firing away, win second in a row, 6-4


LANDOVER -- While Peter Bondra was busy scoring two goals to lead the Washington Capitals to their second victory in two nights, the Caps defense was also giving the high-scoring Buffalo Sabres a lesson in team defense.

The Caps earned a 6-4 victory last night, capping it with an empty-net goal by Mike Ridley with one second to play to even their record at 3-3.

Besides the offensive effort, which saw five different Caps score, the Caps defense was also at its best, holding Buffalo, the NHL's highest-scoring team, to 21 shots, 17.4 below their average.

Bondra, who tied the game at 3-3 with 11:31 gone in the second period, gave the Caps a 5-3 lead 3:51 into the final period, when he unleashed a snap shot that swished past Buffalo goalie Dominik Hasek.

As it turned out, the Caps needed the two-goal margin as Sabres left wing Dave Andreychuk cut the lead to 5-4 with a goal with 2:55 to play.

Bondra leads the Caps in scoring with eight points, having produced three goals in the last two games.

In the first two periods, the Caps kept pace with the Sabres, and took the lead, 4-3, on a wonderful effort with 2:58 remaining in the period. Defenseman Shawn Anderson shuffled the puck to a hustling Paul MacDermid, who put it past Hasek. It was Anderson's third assist in two games since being called up from Baltimore.

The Sabres' only score in the second period came with 5:26 lapsed, when Caps defenders Calle Johansson and Dale Hunter found themselves pushed into the crease, blocking the view of goalie Don Beaupre.

When Randy Wood took the shot, Beaupre had little chance to see it, let alone stop it.

The Caps were able to even the score at 3-3, during a four-on-four possession, when Anderson stole the puck and passed to Bondra, who unloaded a wicked slap shot from near the top of the left circle. It was Bondra's fourth goal of the season.

The Capitals began the night by picking up where they left off Friday night, taking care of the puck and taking advantage of the power play, scoring twice to enter the second period tied, 2-2.

For the first 10 minutes, the Caps and Sabres played tight defensively. But after the Sabres got off the first shot of the game with 10:14 to play, both sides took to the offensive.

Dale Hunter, playing in his 401st game as a Cap, scored his first goal of the season on Washington's first power-play opportunity with 6:56 to go in the period.

But the Sabres were about to get lucky twice.

First it was Yuri Khmylev. Only 19 seconds after the Caps had taken the lead, veteran defenseman Rod Langway slipped in the right circle, opening a clear path to the net for Khmylev to tie the game at 1-1.

A little over two minutes later, the Caps gave one away with the man advantage.

Defenseman Kevin Hatcher had skated deep into the Caps' end to retrieve a puck. After he had passed the team benches, Sabres right wing Wayne Presley came off the bench and skated toward the center of the ice.

Unaware of Presley approaching, Hatcher attempted an across-the-ice pass, only to have Presley intercept and redirect the puck to Pat LaFontaine, who sprinted all alone down the right side to give the Sabres a 2-1 lead.

It was the first short-handed goal allowed by the Caps this season.

With 2:44 to go in the period, Pat Elynuik notched his third goal of the season off an assist from Ridley. Elynuik, scoring his third goal in three games, showed a skillful touch when he picked up the pass on the far left side of the net and got off a twisting back-hand shot that banked off Hasek and into the net.

Notes: Right wing Reggie Savage and defender Bob Babcock did not suit up last night. . . . Hunter picked up a "Capital's Achievement" award last night, for having appeared in his 400th career game with the Caps Friday. . . . The Caps have agreed to change the start of their Jan. 2 game against the Chicago Blackhawks from 1:30 to noon at the request of ESPN, which will broadcast the game live.

Buffalo 2 1 1 -- 4

Washington 2 2 2 -- 6

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