BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) An improved performance still wasn’t good enough for Nic Dowd and the spiraling Washington Capitals who dropped their second outing to the Buffalo Sabres in nine days, and slipped out of the top eight of the Eastern Conference standings.

“It’s tough. I mean, last time we were in this building, I think we were all disappointed but for a different reason,” Dowd said following a 4-2 loss on Thursday night. “We played well for a majority of the game and you didn’t have the outcome.”

The Capitals dropped to 1-5-2 in their past eight and dropped a second straight outing in Buffalo following a 6-2 loss on April 2.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 22 shots and the Sabres played the role of playoff spoilers two days after they extended their NHL-record playoff drought to a 13th season following a 3-2 loss at Dallas.

Alex Tuch, Zach Benson, Jack Quinn and Dylan Cozens, with an empty-netter scored in closing Buffalo’s home schedule.

“It feels good to win. I guess if we can’t be in, we don’t want other teams to be in,” Tuch said. “We’re just trying to win, plain and simple. If we knock a team out of the playoffs in the process, that’s fine, too.”

With three games left, the Capitals find themselves on the outside of a tightly contested playoff race.

Pittsburgh, courtesy of a 6-5 overtime win over Detroit, vaulted ahead of Washington into the East’s eighth and final playoff spot, a point ahead of the Capitals. Washington, with 85 points, dropped to ninth place where it is tied with Detroit and Philadelphia.

Connor McMichael and Tom Wilson had goals for a Capitals team that has not scored three or more in its past eight outings, dating to a 4-3 overtime win over Detroit on March 26.

Charlie Lindgren allowed three goals on 16 shots.

Though Washington controlled the pace for much for the first period, it was the Sabres who opened the scoring on Benson’s goal with a minute left, when he deflected in Jeff Skinner’s shot from the top of the right circle.

“Honestly, I thought we controlled play for most of the game,” McMichael said. “For sure, it wasn’t one of the worst games we’ve played lately, but, we didn’t win. So we got better.”

The Capitals once again had trouble containing the Sabres’ speed and creativity after allowing Buffalo to blow open the last meeting with three goals in the first 5:33 of the third period.

Quinn all but sealed the victory by putting the Sabres up 3-1 with 9:46 remaining. Driving in from the right point, the rookie made a creative move to get around defender Nick Jensen and work his way into the slot from where he snapped a shot inside the left post.

Tuch made it 2-0 at the 12:37 mark of the second period when the Capitals defensemen paid too much respect for the Sabres speed. The defense backed up, allowing the Sabres to gain the zone, with Henri Jokiharju drawing two defenders before he fed Tuch, who fired in a 35-footer from the high slot.

Washington coach Spencer Carbery maintained his faith in a team that’s spent much of the past three months battling to stay in contention.

“Our group won’t be deterred,” Carbery said. "We will continue to play and do the things that we’ve done since we’ve been on the edge of elimination it feels like for two months.”


Capitals: Have three games left, starting with hosting Tampa Bay on Saturday.

Sabres: Close season with games at Florida on Saturday, and Tampa Bay on Monday night.


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