Pouliot scored the go-ahead goal on an end-to-end rush 3:22 into the third period and the Sabres beat Washington 3-1 to snap the Capitals’ three-game winning streak Tuesday night.
Instead of wilting after allowing Alex Ovechkin to tie the game on a defensive breakdown late in the second period, the Sabres showed resolve by winning for just the second time (2-8-1) when tied or trailing entering the third period.
"We came back strong, scored two at the end there which was good," Pouliot said. "We showed a lot of character. If we can play that way every game, we’ll have good success."
Evander Kane scored twice, including an empty-netter with 20 seconds remaining, and Robin Lehner stopped 24 shots. Buffalo (5-8-2) won for the second time in five games as the team tries to climb out of a hole created by an 0-4-1 start.
The Sabres finally delivered on the patience first-year coach Phil Housley showed in them after he failed to criticize his club following a 5-1 loss at Dallas on Saturday. In noting he saw positive signs in the loss, Housley wanted to see his team "not crack" in a close game.
"We stuck with it and weathered the storm and we pushed back," said Kane, who upped his team-leading total to nine goals. "It was a big win for us tonight, and I think we have to try to work on getting over that hump and carrying it into the next game."
Though Ovechkin scored his 13th of the season and extended his goal streak to three games, the Capitals came out flat in playing on consecutive nights. Washington was outshot 24-14 through two periods and 32-25 overall a day after rallying from a two-goal deficit in a 3-2 overtime win against Arizona.
The loss weighed heavily on backup goalie Philipp Grubauer, who stopped 29 shots while starting in place of Braden Holtby. Grubauer dropped to 0-4-1 this season.
"I don’t know what to tell you. I’m sick of losing," he said, punctuating his frustration by using a profanity. "They put a couple of pucks on net early. It’s all I can do, worry about the puck and stop the next puck and give the guys a chance to win."
Grubauer had no chance on Pouliot’s goal. It came after the Capitals were caught in the Sabres zone when Washington defenceman John Carlson was unable to secure a pass during a 3-on-2 rush.
Pouliot collected the puck and sped up the left side. Entering the Capitals zone, he cut into the middle and, using defenceman Brooks Orpik as a screen, snapped a shot over Grubauer’s left shoulder.
"We all feel terrible for him," Nicklas Backstrom said of Grubauer, who has allowed two goals in each of his past two starts. "We wanted to give him a win, but unfortunately that wasn’t tonight. But we will give him one because he deserves it. He deserves better."
The Sabers opened the scoring 2 1/2 minutes into the second when Jack Eichel stripped Orpik of the puck in the right corner. Eichel then fed a pass in front to Kane, who slipped a shot under Grubauer’s legs.
Ovechkin tied it with 2:16 left in the period when he was set up in front by Devante Smith-Pelly on a pass from the right boards. Ovechkin stepped to his right to catch Lehner leaning the wrong way and snapped the puck into the open right side.
NOTES: Ovechkin has 27 goals and 43 points in 43 career games against the Sabres. … Buffalo recalled D Zach Redmond from Rochester of the AHL to fill in for Matt Tennyson, who hurt his ankle when struck by a shot from Eichel in practice on Monday. … Capitals D Madison Bowey is day to day after sustaining an undisclosed injury against Arizona on Monday.
Capitals: Return home to host Pittsburgh on Friday.
Sabres: Complete a two-game homestand against Florida on Friday.