OPINION: Three observations: Sabres take it to Capitals in D.C.

Dustin Tokarski gets his first win in the NHL since Dec. 12, 2015

The Buffalo Sabres were the better team all throughout the night at Capital One Arena in D.C. as they doubled up the Washington Capitals and then some.

Buffalo opened the scoring late in the first period, but they allowed a quick one back from the Capitals. It wasn't until the second period when the Sabres took control off two quick goals from forwards Victor Olofsson and Casey Mittelstadt. The Capitals controlled the shot share in the third period, but never really threatened until the end with the goalie pulled.

Let's take a look at three observations from Thursday's 5-2 win:

1.) Cozens starting to blossom for Buffalo

It was more than about Dylan Cozens on Thursday, but the rookie forward is the engine that makes things happen for the lines he centers, and you saw that on full display.

Cozens tallied two assists on the night, but it felt like he provided even more than that.

The 20-year-old centered his line between forwards Arttu Ruotsalainen and Anders Bjork, and they controlled the shot share and had 75.67% expected goals-for percentage.

They were dominant.

Cozens helped open the scoring late in the first period. He gave support to Henri Jokiharju at the blue line before holding his own and firing a shot toward the net that Sabres forward Sam Reinhart, somehow, got a stick on below the crossbar for Buffalo's first lead of the game.

Cozens can thank a hard hustle by Bjork for the assist on Buffalo's fourth goal. Bjork won a race along the boards to the puck with Capitals forward Lars Eller and found Cozens, who drew three Capitals toward him to open up Bjork to snipe home the one-timer past Capitals goaltender Vitek Vanecek. Vanecek got pulled following the goal.

Cozens becomes more and more noticeable each night. He's shaping up to be an important piece of the puzzle moving forward for the Sabres.

2.) Bjork shaping up to be more than just another Lazar

When the Sabres completed the trade that sent forwards Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar to the Boston Bruins, many viewed the return of Bjork and a 2021 second round pick as lackluster, but Bjork may be changing that narrative quickly.

It's obviously a small sample size, but through two games, Bjork has looked like a perfect fit for the future of the Sabres.

Bjork scored his first goal with the Sabres, thanks to his and Cozens' great play, but he also contributed on the game-winning goal.

Sabres defenseman Jacob Bryson had the puck behind the Sabres net. He attempted to clear the zone but the puck only made it to the half wall. Bjork immediately saw this, went to the boards, and saw a streaking Casey Mittelstadt exiting the zone on an expiring Sabres penalty.

Bjork cleared the puck up to Mittelstadt, and Mittelstadt did the rest, skating fast up the left wing before wristing a shot right by Vanecek.

That's three points in two games for the new Sabres forward.

Bjork will be a player to watch for the rest of the year to see how he may fit into the future of this team. He still has two years remaining on his contract after this season.

3.) Tokarski comes through for Buffalo

Dustin Tokarski has a lot to be proud of on Thursday night.

First, he won his first NHL contest in over five years, with his last win coming on Dec. 12, 2015.

Second, he earned the Sabres' first win without Linus Ullmark in net since Jan. 18. The win gave the Sabres just their second win of the year without Ullmark in goal.

Tokarski will likely be the starter moving forward with Ullmark's status currently uncertain. He's now 1-4-2 with a .908 save percentage on the year. In relief of Ullmark against the Bruins on Tuesday, Tokarski stopped 29 or 31 shots he faced, so he's done a good job and keeping scoring down the last two games.

The Sabres would rather have Ullmark healthy sooner rather than later, but knowing that Tokarski can be strong in net will be helpful down the stretch for a young team learning to win.


The Sabres will travel back home and gear up for a Saturday afternoon matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins at KeyBank Center.

We'll get things started 2 p.m. ET with the Paul William Beltz Pregame Show with Brian Koziol. Faceoff is scheduled to take place just after 3 p.m. ET.

A reminder that Saturday's game will be televised on NBC, so the only place to hear the play-by-play action with Dan Dunleavy and Rob Ray is on the radio flagship station of the Sabres - WGR Sports Radio 550.

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