LANDOVER -- The Washington Capitals turned a plodding game into a joyous celebration last night, yanking the sellout crowd out of their seats midway through the final period.
In a little less than six minutes, the Caps took the lead on a power-play goal by Joe Juneau, killed a five-minute major penalty brought on when defenseman Mark Tinordi was caught spearing, and made it clear they were fully intending to get goalie Jim Carey his fourth shutout of the season and the eighth of his career if they could.
And they did, holding on for the 1-0 victory, as Carey made 20 saves.
"Jim was just sensational tonight," said Washington coach Jim Schoenfeld. "He made difficult saves, shifting from post to post, catching the puck to cut off the rebounds. He had eight or nine tough saves.
"He was flawless. . . . Jimmy out-dueled Dominik Hasek, the guy who has been the best in the league the last two years."
It was the third time this season the Sabres had been shut out and it was the second time in three games, as they squandered another fine goaltending performance.
Hasek, who made 26 saves last night, was also in the net Jan. 17, when the Sabres lost, 1-0, to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"You have to give their goaltender a lot of credit," said Buffalo coach Ted Nolan. "He played a great game. We had numerous chances, but we just couldn't put it in."
The victory was the first for Washington since before the All-Star break, when it beat Chicago, 3-2, also on Jan. 17. The Caps had been on an 0-2 run this week and face another tough game here tomorrow in a noon showdown with the Philadelphia Flyers.
The only unfortunate incident came with 22.1 seconds left in the first period when Washington defenseman Joe Reekie went down to block a shot by former Cap Randy Burridge and took the puck in the face nearly at point-blank range.
"I saw it coming, but I had nowhere to go," said Reekie, who suffered a broken nose and needed four stitches to repair the damage under his nose.
It was a blow that would have sidelined some for at least a week end. Reekie was back on the ice with 9:01 left in the second period.
For Carey, it was a wonderful comeback from his last outing, a disappointing 5-4 loss to the Florida Panthers when Washington allowed four-power play goals.
That night, Schoenfeld told him to forget it. "You were great before," the coach said then. "You'll be great again."
Who knew how soon?
"I keep telling you guys that there are going to be nights when things go well for me and nights when they don't," Carey said. "Tonight went well. The last shot tipped my stick, it could have gone in. God knows I've had a lot of tips go a lot of places. But tonight, it went wide.
"But you've got to give the team credit. I can't control our %J scoring or 2-on-1 breaks. So give our guys the credit they deserve for playing well in front of me."
It was also a great night for Juneau, who missed the past two games because of the flu.
Yesterday morning, his fever broke and he told Schoenfeld he thought he could give a good effort last night. And with 5:05 gone in the third, he made the most of the rebound off a shot by Sylvain Cote, lifting it high and putting it past Hasek's glove.
"It's that type of game," said Hasek. "The whole pressure is on the goalies. It's not easy, because you know if we make one mistake it can turn the game. Unfortunately, I made the first mistake. I went down to stop Cote's shot from the point and then I couldn't get up in time to stop Juneau's good wrist shot, and the Capitals won the game."
Just 14 seconds later, Tinordi was caught spearing Sabres left wing Matthew Barnaby and was given the five-minute major and a game misconduct.
"It was a big kill for us and a big boost for us and Ace [Carey]," said Tinordi, who was particularly irked after Thursday's 3-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils. "This was a big game for us. We'd lost two in row. If we lose here, we wonder where we're going."
Buffalo ..... 0 .. 0 .. 0 .. -- .. 0
Washington .. 0 .. 0 .. 1 .. -- .. 1