Bjork, Sabres spoil Backstrom’s 1,000th game, beat Capitals

Washington Capitals right wing Anthony Mantha (39) celebrates his goal with right wing T.J. Oshie (77) during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres, Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Washington.
Buffalo Sabres left wing Victor Olofsson (68) celebrates his goal with right wing Sam Reinhart (23) and left wing Jeff Skinner (53) during the second period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals, Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Washington.
Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson (74) and Buffalo Sabres center Cody Eakin (20) vie for the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Washington.
Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) shoots the puck past Buffalo Sabres center Casey Mittelstadt (37) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Washington.
Buffalo Sabres center Arttu Ruotsalainen (25) checks Washington Capitals defenseman Nick Jensen (3) against the boards during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Washington.
Buffalo Sabres center Cody Eakin (20) works for the puck in front of Washington Capitals goaltender Craig Anderson (31) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Washington.
Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) skates with the puck against Buffalo Sabres left wing Victor Olofsson (68) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Washington.
Buffalo Sabres center Casey Mittelstadt (37) is congratulated on his goal during the second period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals, Thursday, April 15, 2021, in Washington.
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Anders Bjork scored his first goal with his new team and added an assist, helping Buffalo spoil Nicklas Backstrom’s 1,000th game as the Sabres beat the Washington Capitals 5-2 on Thursday night.

Sam Reinhart scored his 15th goal and Victor Olofsson added his 12th for Buffalo, which has won five of its last nine following an 18-game winless streak. Casey Middlestadt added the first short-handed goal of his career during the Sabres’ three-goal second period. Tage Thompson scored an empty-netter.

“The guys kind of told me when I came here, ‘We’re a lot different team right now,'” Bjork said. “We’re still growing, but it’s cool to see where we’re heading.”

Dustin Tokarski made 27 stops for Buffalo after Linus Ullmark was scratched with a lower body injury. Tokarski, Buffalo’s fourth-string goalie, won for the first time since stopping 25 shots in Montreal’s 3-1 victory over Ottawa on Dec. 12, 2015.

“He deserves it, he’s played so well since he’s been here,” Middlestadt said of Tokarski. “I think he fires the guys up, too, on the bench. They see how hard he’s battling and making big saves.”

Backstrom picked up his 31st assist of the season as he became the second player to reach the 1,000-game mark for the Capitals, joining teammate Alex Ovechkin.

Anthony Mantha scored his second goal in as many games with Washington following his trade from Detroit. Dmitry Orlov also scored.

Vitek Vanacek was pulled after stopping 17 of 21 shots as the Capitals missed a chance to add to their two-point lead atop the Eastern Division.

“The score is what it is at that point,” said head coach Peter Laviolette, who inserted Craig Anderson with Washington down 4-2. “I don’t think that we were very good in front of our goaltender. That’s when I made the change.”

Bjork picked up an assist on the penalty kill in the second period, clearing the puck out of his own zone down the left side. Middlestadt then beat Vanacek to his far post side to push Buffalo to a 3-1 lead.

Mantha answered at the period’s midway point with a one-timer off John Carlson’s cross-ice feed, with Backstrom providing the second assist.

Bjork made it a two-goal game with 6:37 left in the second, beating Vanacek over the stick-side shoulder with a one-timer after Vanacek’s pad save of Bjork a few seconds earlier.

A GRAND TIME

Backstrom was honored in a pregame ceremony that included a video tribute and a commemorative silver stick. He was then joined for a photo in the corner of the rink by his wife and three children, as well as teammates Ovechkin and Tom Wilson.

Earlier, every Capitals player donned a blue No. 19 jersey during warm-ups, and formed a guard of honor for Backstrom as he first took the ice.

“For Nick, it was a tremendous accomplishment,” Laviolette said. “He’s been such a valuable, important piece for this organization for so many years. To take a minute and honor him for what he’s done and what he’s accomplished I think is important.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Sabres: With Ullmark out, the Sabres officially recalled goaltender Michael Houser from the practice squad. … FW Kyle Okposo left the game after taking a puck to the face midway through the first period. He left the ice under his own power. … C Riley Sheahan sat out with an upper body injury.

UP NEXT

Sabres: Host Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Capitals: Visit Philadelphia on Saturday.

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