WASHINGTON (AP) — On the night Alex Ovechkin reached one milestone, his goal-scoring prowess moved him closer to another.
Ovechkin added to his NHL lead with two goals while tying the Washington record for most games played, and the Capitals beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-1 on Saturday.
“In this day and age, there are not a lot of players with the same team. Those days are probably past a little bit,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s durable. Those two combinations have had a big impact on the franchise for a long time now.”
Evgeny Kuznetsov scored 50 seconds into the game and had two assists. Andre Burakovsky and Lars Eller also had goals for Washington, which leapfrogged Pittsburgh and moved back into first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals had lost two in a row and five of seven.
Ovechkin’s 37th goal came on the power play with 9:47 remaining after Buffalo closed to 2-1 on Sam Reinhart’s goal 14 seconds into the third period. Ovechkin redirected a shot past Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner with 1:24 left for his 38th goal.
The 32-year-old Ovechkin played in his 983rd NHL game, tying Calle Johansson for most in Capitals history.
“I’m getting old, you know?” Ovechkin joked. “Soon it’s going to be 1,000. That’s a pretty big number for games. I’m pretty happy to reach that milestone with one organization. It’s pretty cool.”
Ovechkin holds franchise records for goals (596) and points (1,105). He is four goals from becoming the 20th player in NHL history with 600.
“When you get closer, you want it done earlier,” Ovechkin said. “You’re stuck at 599, you want to pass it. Hoping in a couple of games I will have it done and we move forward.”
The Sabres held out forward Evander Kane. He could be dealt by Monday’s trade deadline.
“Management thought it was the best decision moving forward and the best decision for Evander,” coach Phil Housley said before the game.
Philipp Grubauer made 28 saves for his third win in three starts. Grubauer’s previous victory came against Buffalo, 3-2 on Monday.
Washington held off Buffalo after allowing two third-period goals in Thursday’s 3-2 loss at Florida.
The Sabres struggled defensively against Washington’s speed.
“Focus a little bit more on the defensive end to start the game,” Reinhart said. “I think we gave them too much respect.”
After receiving the puck outside the blue line, Kuznetsov darted to the left of Lehner, cut across the middle and then patiently held the puck until Lehner committed. Kuznetsov knocked the puck into the open net for a 1-0 lead.
Burakovsky’s spectacular goal began with him evading four defenders before nudging a backhand into the left corner.
“We didn’t check well enough to take away their speed,” Housley said. “I just feel there were some guys not ready to play tonight.”
NOTES: Buffalo was 5-0-1 in its previous six road games. … Washington won the season series 2-1. … Kane, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, ranks second on the Sabres behind injured Jack Eichel with 20 goals. Kane is third in points (44) behind Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly. … Brett Connolly, Dmitry Orlov, Matt Niskanen and John Carlson had assists for Washington. … Buffalo’s last win at Washington came on Nov. 22, 2014.
Panthers: Host the Boston Bruins on Sunday evening.
Capitals: At the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night.
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