The Washington Capitals earned their first win of the 2013 season on Sunday afternoon, 3-2 over the visting Buffalo Sabres.
Washington got goals from Joel Ward, John Erskine and Alex Ovechkin, and 22 saves from goaltender Michael Neuvirth to end their longest winless streak to start a season since they lost their first six games of the 1993-94 season.
The Capitals entered Sunday's contest confident after coming back from a two-goal third period deficit against the New Jersey Devils on Friday night to force overtime. Despite losing, Washington knew the effort and fundamentals it took to force overtime would serve them well against the Sabres if they could carry it over.
They did just that, getting traffic in front of Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller and keeping skaters away from Neuvirth.
Ward's goal, which came with 3:58 remaining in the first period came on a rebound of a Jason Chimera shot from the left of Miller. Ward saw Chimera getting ready to shoot and skated past a Buffalo defender in the mid-slot to put himself in position to take the shot.
Ward's line, which included Chimera and Mike Ribeiro on Sunday was one of the Capitals best.
Both Ward and Chimera assisted on Erskine's goal early in the second period that deflected off of Buffalo's Cody Hodgson, after working the puck out from behind Miller and back to Erskine who was at the top of the zone.
Ovechkin's tally, his first of the season came on an early third period power play on a slap shot from the left cirlce on a pass from Mike Green. Ovechkin opened his body and got everything on the shot that Miller had no chance of stopping.
Ovechkin nearly scored in the first period on a scramble in front of the net with Jay Beagle, but was denied by Miller.
Along with getting traffic in front of Miller, the Capitals were better disciplined only taking two minor penalties and killing both.
Washington's penalty killers did a better job of staying in their area's on the ice and not turning their backs to the Buffalo shooters. Both Jay Beagle and Troy Brouwer intercepted passes on a third period power play for the Sabres because they stayed disciplined and were able to make easy clears.
Discipline and effort have been the biggest issues for the Capitals in their first four games. They got going in the right direction Friday against the Devils and carried that effort, and discipline into Sunday's game against the Sabres.
The Capitals have the size in their forward lines to consistently be able to put pressure on any opposing goaltender, and have enough size on defense, especially when Erskine is in the line up to do the same.
Friday and Sunday were starts; now the Capitals just need to keep it up.