BOSTON – It takes a lot to beat the Bruins. The Sabres had the right recipe Thursday, scoring timely goals and playing complete hockey. Saturday’s rematch lacked both.
Buffalo failed in its bid to win three straight for the first time all year as the Bruins earned a 4-1 victory Saturday night in TD Garden. Despite their willingness to engage the Bruins physically, the Sabres were frustrated on the offensive end. Their power play went 0 for 6, which included two five-on-threes.
“It’s a momentum killer,” right wing Drew Stafford said. “You’ve got to give them credit. They have great penalty killers. That’s a true test against a penalty-killing unit like that. We just couldn’t get it done.”
The Sabres had 8:12 of power-play time but recorded just four shots.
“We didn’t really do much on those,” forward Ville Leino said. “You’ve got to score on those five-on-threes. You’ve got to create more than one chance.”
A blown call short-circuited the Sabres’ second two-man advantage, which came with just six minutes to play and the Bruins holding a 3-1 lead. Zdeno Chara broke his stick while whacking the lumber of Steve Ott, but the referee whistled Buffalo’s captain for slashing.
“It’s unfortunate,” said Ott, who was furious on the ice but calm in the dressing room. “That would have been a five-on-two basically with Chara without his stick, and it’s good chances you’re going to score in this league on a five-on-two and make it a 3-2 game and be right in it with a few minutes to go. Obviously, that didn’t happen.
“Still, no excuse. I don’t think we were totally good enough.”
The Bruins finished the Sabres off with an empty-net goal with 21 seconds left.
There are going to be a lot of sore players in Boston and Buffalo today. The teams banged, punched and hit each other often. Players moved slowly to the bench or limped to the dressing room throughout the game. Kevin Porter will miss time after suffering a leg injury on a big hit from Johnny Boychuk.
The Bruins will feel a little better, however. The Sabres have to massage both their muscles and their minds.
Linus Omark’s inaugural appearance on the Sabres’ stat sheet was a hooking penalty with 9:17 gone, and it turned a quiet game into an avalanche of scoring chances for the Bruins. The shots were only 4-4 when Omark departed, but Boston took control with eight of the next nine.
The first one went in. Carl Soderberg made a dynamic play, getting the puck down low and darting to the net. He promptly fed the puck across the crease to Reilly Smith for an easy goal.
“I just think we made some really bad decisions at wrong times,” interim coach Ted Nolan said. “We started off OK for a road game, kept it pretty quiet, then we took a bad penalty.”
Despite the pressure, the Bruins couldn’t beat Enroth again. It cost them as the Sabres escaped the period with a 1-1 tie on a late goal by Zemgus Girgensons.
It didn’t take long for the Bruins to re-establish their lead in the second period. David Krejci scored on an odd-man rush with just 1:47 gone.
The Sabres got caught after their own rush chance failed to result in a shot. Jarome Iginla picked up the puck and took off. He looked at driving forward Milan Lucic but instead dropped a pass to Krejci. The forward fought off Girgensons’ hook and ripped a shot over Enroth’s glove.
Buffalo blew an absolutely golden opportunity to at least tie the game midway through the second. Patrice Bergeron departed for cross-checking with 9:28 gone. Gregory Campbell followed him to the penalty box just 11 seconds later with a four-minute high-sticking penalty.
During the extended power play that included a two-man advantage for 1:49, the Sabres took just three shots. Leino also plunked the post from close range for the Sabres’ only real scoring opportunity.
The Bruins’ fans responded with a loud standing ovation when Campbell exited the box. They stood again when the game ended.
“It’s disappointing,” Leino said, “because we’ve been playing so good and we didn’t give our best.”