OPINION: Buffalo plays well from start-to-finish, beat red-hot Capitals

Dustin Tokarski records his first NHL win since Dec. 12, 2015

(WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres had their best 60-minute effort of the season on Thursday, and they were rewarded with a 5-2 win in Washington over the Capitals.

You can see how much fun these players are having on the ice together. They enjoy that what they do well on the ice is appreciated and wanted in the game plan.

Since Mar. 29, the Sabres have played 10 games and are fourth in the NHL with 13 points. That’s one point behind the second place Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers. Buffalo is seventh in points percentage at .650, and fourth in goals scored, averaging 3.60 goals per-game.

This game against the Capitals was impressive, because it was a complete 60-minute effort. Washington didn't have a lot of high-quality chances, because the Sabres had the puck a lot and were smart with it when they did have it. They were quick to jump on Washington’s mistakes with the puck, and it resulted in goals by Victor Olofsson, Casey Mittelstadt and Tage Thompson.

Buffalo did get outshot 12-5 in the third period, but there was never a time where I felt they were in trouble. Dustin Tokarski made one gorgeous save on Evgeny Kuznetsov’s deflection.

Tokarski won his first game in the NHL since Dec. 12, 2015, and dedicated the win to his deceased father following the game.

I think we’ve all figured out that 20-year-old Dylan Cozens is a very smart hockey player. The Sabres were playing a good first period, but couldn’t get one by Vitek Vanecek until Cozens put a shot off the ice where Sam Reinhart could tip it to give Buffalo the lead.

Reinhart has 15 goals in 41 games, which is another 30-goal pace over 82 games.

Vanecek was making a living this season on beating the Sabres and putting up great numbers, but Buffalo finally chased him, scoring four goals on 21 shots in 33:23 of work.

Midway through the second period, Washington made things interesting, scoring on a 6-on-5 delayed penalty. Anthony Mantha was left all alone for a layup.

What impressed me is that so many times this year, that goal would’ve crushed this team and they would’ve lost badly. However, the Sabres just kept playing fast and kept being tenacious on the puck.

Just 3:24 after Mantha’s goal, Cozens made another good play along the wall and found Anders Bjork in the left circle for his first goal as a Sabre. Bjork has a goal and two assists for three points in his two games with Buffalo.

Cozens has four assists in three games since he came back from injury.

Mittelstadt added his first NHL shorthanded goal in the second period to help raise Buffalo’s record to 5-2-3 in its last 10 games. They finish the season 2-5-1 against the Capitals, with both wins coming in Washington.

The Sabres have a pair of 3 p.m. ET starts this weekend against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Buffalo.

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