Buffalo Sabres right wing JJ Peterka (77) celebrates his goal...

Buffalo Sabres right wing JJ Peterka (77) celebrates his goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals Tuesday, April 2, 2024, in Buffalo, N.Y. Credit: AP/Jeffrey T. Barnes

BUFFALO, N.Y. — JJ Peterka and the Buffalo Sabres haven’t given up on their slim chances of crashing the NHL playoff party.

At the very least, they’re making it a crowded race following a 6-2 win over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night.

Peterka scored twice, including the go-ahead goal, and the Sabres not only slowed the Capitals' late-season playoff push but thrust themselves in the mix of a muddled Eastern Conference playoff race. Five points now separate eighth-place Washington and 12th-place Buffalo with two weeks left in the season.

Rasmus Dahlin, Tage Thompson and Alex Tuch had a goal and two assists each in an outing the Sabres blew open by scoring three times in a 2:30 span in the opening minutes of the third period.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen bounced back after getting beaten by Martin Fehervary’s 40-footer on the first shot he faced, to finish with 23 saves.

The key for Buffalo, was not letting yet another early deficit derail them by improving to 14-27-4 when allowing the first goal.

“Just stay with it. I mean, we had a lot of chances throughout the whole game, and guys were scoring today, so it was an overall good game from us,” Dahlin said. “Of course, they got an early goal, but we battled through that and came back strong.”

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) tries to make...

Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) tries to make a pass from the ice during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday, April 2, 2024, in Buffalo, N.Y. Credit: AP/Jeffrey T. Barnes

Zemgus Girgensons also scored for Buffalo on a night the team celebrated forward Jeff Skinner playing his 1,000th game.

Dylan Strome also scored for the Capitals, who dropped to 0-2-1 in their past three in a skid that immediately followed a 6-1 run.

Charlie Lindgren was yanked after allowing six goals on 31 shots, and dropped to 6-3-1 in his past 10 starts. Darcy Kuemper mopped up with four saves.

The Capitals were caught flat-footed in attempting to play at the Sabres speedy pace by matching chance for chance.

Washington Capitals center Michael Sgarbossa (23) collides with Buffalo Sabres...

Washington Capitals center Michael Sgarbossa (23) collides with Buffalo Sabres defenseman Henri Jokiharju (10) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, April 2, 2024, in Buffalo, N.Y. Credit: AP/Jeffrey T. Barnes

“When we try to take one rush offensively and we get a chance and cheat for a chance, it seems like they get three or four on us coming back the other way,” Strome said. “That hasn’t worked for us all year.”

Despite the loss, the Capitals maintain a slim hold on eighth place in being tied with Detroit at 82 points, but holding the tie-breaking edge over the Red Wings. The concern is how the rest of the field gained on Washington, with the New York Islanders now one point back and Pittsburgh trailing by three.

That sets up a major showdown at Washington on Thursday, when the Capitals host the Penguins.

“We just need to reset. Tomorrow is a new day. Focus on Pittsburgh,” Fehervary said.

After Fehervary opened the scoring 2:46 in, the Sabres responded with three consecutive goals.

The Sabres honored Skinner with all skaters taking the ice for the pre-game warmup wearing red woolen hats, which Skinner is known to sport. The team then held a brief ceremony at center ice where the player was joined by his parents and friends, and presented with a silver stick.

UP NEXT

Capitals: Host the Penguins on Thursday night.

Sabres: Close five-game homestand against the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night.

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