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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The Washington Capitals are off to the best start in franchise history, and captain Alex Ovechkin says goalkeeper Braden Holtby has been the team's most important player.
Holtby made 31 saves and Ovechkin scored to lead the Capitals over the Buffalo Sabres 2-0 on Monday night for their eighth straight win.
Ovechkin scored 19 seconds into the second period and Jay Beagle scored about 12 minutes later to help the Eastern Conference-leading Capitals improve to 27-6-2.
Washington has earned a point in 15 of its last 16 games and trails the Dallas Stars by one point for the NHL lead.
Holtby got his 22nd career shutout and second this season. He leads the NHL with 23 victories and is 15-0-1 in his last 17 games. He also leads the NHL with a 1.86 goals-against average.
"We knew he's good," Ovechkin said. "He's our best player and probably the best goalie in the league right now."
Defenseman Karl Alzner said Holtby is "definitely a main reason why we're sitting on top right now."
Linus Ullmark made 24 saves for the Sabres.
Sabres forward Evander Kane played for the first time since The Buffalo News reported that Buffalo police were investigating a sex crime allegation against him.
Kane spoke to reporters at a morning skate Monday for about 30 seconds, saying he did nothing wrong and is looking forward to having his name cleared. He did not take questions.
Kane had four shots on goal and three hits in 20:20 of ice time. He left the game briefly in the second period after taking a puck to the face but was able to return.
Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said before the game he was worried about the investigation affecting Kane mentally.
After the game, Bylsma said Kane "was eager to get on the ice and be with his team and play with his team tonight, and it showed."
"I enjoy playing hockey," Kane said. "I enjoy being around the rink, around the guys, playing in this league. I don't take that lightly."
Buffalo was shut out for the third time in five games and the fourth time this season.
The Sabres appeared to break the shutout early in the third period when Jamie McGinn sent a slap shot past Holtby. The goal lamp went off and the horn sounded, but the puck hit the outside of the net and did not go in.
Buffalo's Tyler Ennis crashed the net and pushed the puck past Holtby with 4:10 remaining, but the referee immediately waved off the goal. Bylsma challenged the call, but replays determined that Ennis made incidental contact with Holtby while the puck was in the crease.
Buffalo could not convert on three power plays and is now 0 for 17 on power-play chances over its last five games.
The Capitals improved to 19-0-0 when leading after two periods.
Ovechkin gave the Capitals a 1-0 lead with his team-leading 18th goal of the season.
Nicklas Backstrom notched his 22nd assist on the goal, digging the puck out of the corner and flipping a backhand between two Sabres defenders to a wide-open Ovechkin in front of the net.
Beagle scored off a rebound to make it 2-0 with 7:05 left in the second period. Ennis gave the puck away in the offensive zone, setting up Tom Wilson's slap shot from the point that sailed past the net and bounced back off the boards to Beagle in front.
Holtby made 10 saves in the scoreless first period and 12 more in the second. He made three saves after the Sabres pulled Ullmark, including a sliding glove save on a point-blank shot by Kane in the final minute.
NOTES: Washington scratched D John Carlson (lower-body injury), ending his streak of 412 games played. Carlson's streak was the second-longest in team history, trailing Bob Caprenter (422) and just ahead of teammate Karl Azner (411). ... Carlson's replacement, Connor Carrick, played for the first time April 13, 2014. ... The Sabres scratched LW Marcus Foligno and D Carlo Colaiacovo. . Capitals C Michael Latta sustained an upper-body injury during a fight with Sabres LW Nicolas Deslauriers during the second period and did not return. ... The Capitals last won eight in a row from April 4-16, 2013. ... The Sabres announced a sellout for the third time in 20 home games. ... The two teams meet again Wednesday night in Washington.
AP Sports Writer John Wawrow contributed to this report.
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