BOSTON – Looking at the NHL stat sheet, Dan Bylsma’s comment seemed laughable. Buffalo’s coach was worried about Boston’s power play? Really?
It turns out Bylsma knew what he was talking about. Unfortunately for the Sabres, it wasn’t the first time.
Buffalo players angrily and helplessly watched from the penalty box as Boston scored three power-play goals and rolled to a 4-0 shutout Monday. Bylsma also praised Philadelphia’s power play last month, and the Flyers responded with three power-play goals then, too.
The Bruins’ barrage was painful. It allowed them to take over a tightly contested game.
“They were struggling on the power play, but they’re a dangerous group,” Bylsma said in TD Garden. “Even though they weren’t scoring, you could see it in their power play. We just gave them too many opportunities to prove they were a good group.
“It feels like you get beat pretty badly, and it’s all because of them getting on the power play and scoring the goals there.”
The Bruins went 3 for 8 on the power play after entering the game ranked 29th in the NHL at 7.9 percent. Buffalo’s penalty killers have been victimized in three of the past four games. They dropped to 22nd in the league at 79.1 percent.
“We started to come apart in the second and then chased the game from there,” captain Brian Gionta said. “We lose our composure, start reeling and can never catch back up to the game.”
Buffalo fell apart after watching Ryan O’Reilly take uncharacteristic penalties. He took the Sabres’ first two after taking only four all last season.
“Looking at my two penalties, looking at where they were in the game and where they were on the ice, it’s pointless,” said O’Reilly, who was called for tripping and high-sticking. “I’ve got to be more aware of my stick. Staying out of the box is huge. You give their best players more time with the puck, and as you see they put it in.”
After O’Reilly trudged from the box in a 1-0 hole early in the second, the Sabres really disintegrated. Zemgus Girgensons took a four-minute high-sticking penalty. Jake McCabe followed with two minutes for tripping and two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct after he argued and slammed his stick on the glass.
Boston scored on the five-on-three to make it 2-0, and the game was never in doubt after that.
“I didn’t think I deserved one, but my reaction getting an extra two hurt my team,” McCabe said. “It’s something to learn from and won’t happen again.”
The Sabres’ lack of composure was rare. They entered the night with the fifth-fewest penalties in the league.
“We put ourselves in bad position,” Girgensons said. “That’s penalties we don’t want to take, and two in a row, too. It’s tough to go a full two minutes five-on-three.”
The Bruins added another power-play goal during the third period to finish the rout. They totaled 42 shots, including 16 on the power play to torture goaltender Robin Lehner.
“Lenny’s playing great in there, but when they keep peppering him like that and guys are getting out of the game, they’re not in the rhythm of things, it’s tough to crawl back from that,” O’Reilly said.
Making matters worse was lack of offense once again. Buffalo has been blanked twice in its 12 games and scored just one goal on three other occasions. Struggling left wing Tyler Ennis, who sat out practice Sunday, was limited to just 7:33 of ice time because of injury.
Buffalo put 32 shots on goaltender Tuukka Rask but couldn’t beat him.
“Right now we’re too inconsistent,” O’Reilly said. “We’ve got to find a way to put the puck in the net.”