Varone and Schaller scored in the first period, and Evander Kane had a goal in the second to chase Holtby as the Sabres went on to a 4-1 win over the Capitals on Saturday night.
Varone was called up to Buffalo after playing Friday night for AHL Rochester in Binghamton. His rebound goal 10:30 into the first period gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead.
“I didn’t get much sleep last night, I was trying to remember everything to pack,” Varone said. “I just tried to make sure my legs were going well.”
Holtby hadn’t lost in his last 22 decisions, going 20-0-2 since a Nov. 10 loss to Detroit. The Sabres emphatically ended his run of 23 games without a loss in regulation by scoring three times on 16 shots.
“You gotta get excited for every game,” said Schaller, who last scored Dec. 21, 2014, against Boston. “But a little more excited for one of the best teams in the NHL right now. We took it to them and it was a great win.”
Chad Johnson stopped 33 shots and Cody Franson also scored for Buffalo, which snapped a six-game home losing streak and has now won three of four overall.
Marcus Johansson ruined Johnson’s shutout bid 2:54 into the third period with an unassisted goal. The Sabres’ goalie got his first win since Dec. 26.
“To score two goals in the first period against that team, it definitely helps us to generate more momentum in our own arena here so it was huge for us,” Johnson said.
The loss also snapped Washington’s five-game winning streak.
“We didn’t invest enough to win a hockey game,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “We were really easy on them in the first. We didn’t touch anybody, we just played.”
Buffalo opened the scoring when Rasmus Ristolainen‘s hard slap shot rebounded to the right of Washington’s goal, where Varone raced to slap the rebound past Holtby.
Schaller made it 2-0 at the 16:00 mark when he seized a Capitals turnover and shoulder faked Holtby before snapping a shot over the goaltender’s right shoulder.
“I noticed how much time I had,” Schaller said. “I didn’t want to fake myself out, so I gave him a little head fake and luckily he went down a little bit and I threw it over his shoulder.”
The Sabres kept it up in the second period, with Holtby denying Mike Weber and Jamie McGinn during an early flurry.
Buffalo made it 3-0 when Kane’s shot through traffic changed directions and dribbled past Holtby. That was the last action for Holtby, who was pulled in favour of Philipp Grubauer.
Trotz said the move had little to do with Holtby’s performance.
“I was just trying to change the momentum because I didn’t like what I was seeing,” he said.
“I knew it was an important time in the game,” Johnson said. “We knew as a group we had to be strong, everyone had to be big tonight to get a win against that team.”
The Sabres made it 4-0 on the power play, as Franson wired a funny bounce off the end wall over Grubauer’s left shoulder. Bogosian picked up his second assist of the night on the goal, giving him 100 for his career.
Washington opened the third period with possession in Buffalo’s zone, and Jason Chimera teed up Johansson for a one-time goal. It was the 200th assist of Chimera’s career.
Buffalo’s penalty kill stood strong, holding the Capitals scoreless on five chances.
NOTES: Buffalo held a moment of silence for longtime scout and Sabres Hall of Fame member Rudy Migay, who died Saturday at the age of 88. … Washington C Mike Richards played his first game since the Kings terminated his contract this summer after a border arrest for possession of a controlled substance. … Capitals C Brooks Laich was scratched for the first time this season.