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NHL Game Summary - Buffalo at Washington

(Friday, December 26th)

Final Score: Washington 3, Buffalo 2

Washington, DC (Sports Network) - Alexander Ovechkin scored a highlight reel goal in the third period which turned out to be the game-winner, lifting the Washington Capitals over the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, at the Verizon Center.

Boyd Gordon and Viktor Kozlov also scored while Jose Theodore turned back 22-of-24 shots for the Capitals, who earned their seventh victory in eight games and lead the Southeast Division with 47 points after a 9-3-0 ledger thus far in December.

Washington is 14-1-1 as the host this year and play five of its next six on home ice starting with a visit from Toronto on Sunday.

Thomas Vanek notched his 25th goal of the season, one shy of Philadelphia's Jeff Carter for the league lead, and Patrick Lalime made 31 saves in a losing effort.

Maxim Afinogenov also scored for the Sabres, who have lost their last three games and five of seven overall. Buffalo next returns home to host the Islanders and then welcomes these same Capitals to close out the month.

Vanek made it a one-goal game just over six minutes into the third, one-timing a Drew Stafford pass from across the right circle on the power play.

However, Ovechkin showed why he's the reigning league MVP after breaking out of his own zone, tipping a pass to himself while turning around a Buffalo defender at the blue-line, and getting a hard shot off while falling to his stomach for a goal that sent the home crowd into a frenzy and solidified a two-goal lead with 11:33 left in the game.

But with 1:49 remaining, a slap shot by Toni Lydman from the right point deflected off the legs of a leaping Afinogenov to the left of Theodore and into the net. The Sabres pulled the goaltender with 1:02 left to play but couldn't get the equalizer.

Lalime turned aside 15 Washington shots in the first and Theodore was solid in stopping eight shots in a scoreless first period before the Caps finally got one by Lalime with 2:14 left in the second.

Nicklas Backstrom fed Kozlov for a slapper just outside the right circle that snuck by on the short side.

Ovechkin appeared to make it a 2-0 game a short time later off a power-play faceoff, but Brooks Laich was whistled for goaltender interference on the play. Buffalo was called for a hooking minor with under a minute remaining, giving the Caps a brief 4-on-3 that spanned the second and third.

Just after the power play expired, Gordon deflected a low wrister from Milan Jurcina at the right point to make it a 2-0 game 1:58 into the third.

Game Notes

Buffalo slammed the visiting Capitals, 5-0, in the only other meeting between these clubs on November 1...The Sabres had won three straight and seven of eight in Washington prior to Friday...Ovechkin ranks third in the league with 23 goals...Bryan Helmer had two assists for Washington.

12/26 21:58:23 ET

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