In what certainly rates as their most crushing loss of the season, the Buffalo Sabres blew a two-goal lead and fell to the Boston Bruins, 4-2, Thursday night in KeyBank Center.
Ryan Spooner's wicked one-timer from the slot with 3:53 left snapped a tie and gave the Bruins the victory. It came on a strong cross-ice pass from David Krejci, and Spooner's shot beat a screened Robin Lehner high over the right shoulder. Spooner added the coup de gras on an empty-net goal with 51.5 seconds left.
The loss in the opener of a home-and-home series dropped Buffalo eight points behind third-place Boston, which currently owns the final playoff slot in the Atlantic Division.
The physical and often chippy affair in KeyBank Center was played before a sellout crowd of 19,070, the third of the season.
The surliness between the teams figures to grow as they met again Saturday afternoon at 1 in TD Garden. It is one of just two home-and-home sets the Sabres have this season; the other is against Columbus in March.
A fast start: The Sabres played perhaps their best first period of the season, and certainly their best at home, in taking a 2-0 lead and outshooting the Bruins, 16-9. The Sabres had scored just one goal against Boston in dropping the two previous meetings this season.
Moose on the Loose: Marcus Foligno gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead at 1:32 of the first period, taking a nifty backhand pass from Jack Eichel and sweeping a quick shot past Tuukka Rask from the slot. It was Foligno's fifth goal of the season -- and first in the last 16 games.
Big save: The Sabres had eight of the game's first nine shots on goal before Robin Lehner stopped former Sabre Dominic Moore on a clean breakaway while Buffalo was on a power play after Cody Franson couldn't stop a bouncing puck in the neutral zone.
Hitting double digits: Kyle Okposo made it 2-0 at 18:10 of the first on a power play, firing a snap shot that cranked under the cross bar behind Rask. It wasn't immediately ruled a goal but officials quickly whistled the play down and a replay review from NHL control in Toronto quickly confirmed the score. Okposo's 10th goal of the season made him the first Sabre to get to 10 this year.
Big hit: William Carrier drew the Bruins' ire with a high hit on David Backes with 5:07 left in the first period. Carrier got a minor for a check to the head while Backes suffered an upper-body injury and did not return.
Big response: Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid went after Carrier when the Buffalo forward emerged from the penalty box, drawing 17 minutes in penalties that included an instigator minor. Carrier got in several shots while McQuaid was engaged with a linesman, drawing a huge roar from the crowd. Carrier, however, suffered a hand injury and didn't return.
High five: Sam Reinhart drew an assist on Okposo's goal, giving him a career-high point streak of five games. He has two goals and four assists in that span.
Bar down: The Bruins cut the deficit in half on Patrice Bergeron's goal at 3:20 of the second period that pulled them within 2-1. Bergeron took a Brad Marchand pass and fired a drive under the crossbar to beat Lehner.
All Even: Boston tied it, 2-2, on Krejci's power-play goal at 16:13 of the second, as he fished the puck from Justin Falk and Zach Bogosian and was a step ahead of Evander Kane as he backhanded it into an empty net.
Special teams report: In a chippy game, the teams combined for 11 power plays. The Sabres were just 1 for 6 while Boston was 1 of 5.
Up next: Saturday's matinee in Boston is widely known but a tad overlooked might be the fact it starts a rugged trio of road games. The Sabres open the 2017 portion of their schedule against the New York Rangers Tuesday in Madison Square Garden and then play the Blackhawks Thursday night in Chicago. Both of those games will be national telecasts on NBC Sports Network.