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John Erskine was preparing to wind up for a cannonade from the left point when Buffalo's Drew Stafford stepped in the way. Reacting accordingly, the Capitals' hulking defenseman slid the puck to his left and lofted a soft 56-foot wrist shot -- a "muffin" as he called it after the game -- that fluttered through the air and caromed off of several Sabres before settling behind Ryan Miller in the back of the net.
There were no baked goods to be had on the ice Sunday at Verizon Center, but Erskine's goal was just as sweet, giving the Capitals a long-awaited and much-needed 2-1 lead in the second period, one that they never relinquished en route to savoring their first win of the season.
“I think to get that first win this year, it kind of got the monkey off our back,” Erskine said. “I think guys will be a little bit at ease. It’s not so much pressure now. And I think we got a good thing going here and we just got to keep rolling.”
Sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good, and Washington was both Sunday afternoon. Jason Chimera's strong centering pass deflected off the side of the goal and Miller's stick before popping out into the slot, where a waiting Joel Ward was primed to pounce. Meanwhile, Erskine's tally was his first in nearly two years. After a hellacious first week of the season where nothing could possibly go right, puck luck finally played in their favor.
"I think when you get pucks to the net, good things happen," Chimera said. "Look at Erskine’s goal. He threw it to the net and found a way to make things happen. You’ve got to do those. Once you start working hard, those ones seem to bounce your way.”
There was nothing lucky, however, about Alex Ovechkin's game-winning power-play howitzer. After Ovechkin's one-timer from the left faceoff circle eluded Miller's blocker, the no-longer-scoreless captain dropped to one knee as if he was letting the monkey that Erskine referenced off of his own back. His career-worst four-game goalless drought to start the season came to an end and with it, Washington's four-game losing streak.
Ovechkin admitted Sunday that he knew that his first goal "was gonna come sooner or later,” and so was Washington's first win. As a sign of appreciation for their patience, the Capitals gathered at center ice once their victory was officially secured and raised their sticks to the fans.
"I think the fans kind of hung in there and were loyal to us during the tough time there," Erskine said. "it was just kind of our way of saying thank you to them."
Finally, with or without a "muffin," the Capitals and their fans could wash away the bitter taste of several defeats with the taste of sweet and satisfying victory.
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