No shortage of chances, no rewards.
Boston backup goaltender Anton Khudobin made 36 saves Tuesday night to outduel Buffalo's Robin Lehner as the Bruins blanked the Sabres, 3-0, in KeyBank Center.
Khudobin posted his first shutout of the season to improve his record to 8-2-2. It was his second career shutout against Buffalo and allowed Boston to improve to 11-3-1 over its last 15 games.
The Sabres, meanwhile, fell to 1-2-3 in their last six games. It was the fourth time this season they've been shut out and all of those have come in the last 11 games.
Bruins break the ice: For the second straight game, the Sabres played a contest that was scoreless past the halfway mark of the second period and then gave up the first goal. Jake DeBrusk did the honors for Boston, with a wicked snap shot to the top corner that beat Lehner and gave the Bruins the lead at 10:14 of the second.
Jake DeBrusk claims a water bottle pic.twitter.com/IiHcurTiTl
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 20, 2017
Perfect bank shot: Former Sabres center Tim Schaller hit the empty net with 1:51 left on a long bank shot from in front of his net that Rasmus Ristolainen missed at the blue line and watched in horror as it slid down the ice into the goal. David Backes also added an empty netter with 30.2 seconds left.
More close calls: Benoit Pouliot was the most frustrated Sabres shooter late in the second period, getting too deep to the net to convert a Kyle Okposo pass on a 2-on-1 and then having his rebound chance blocked at the defense. Evander Kane was stopped by Khudobin about 7 1/2 minutes into the third period after a sick toedrag with the puck got him space in front of the net.
Trying to repeat history: The Bruins took their one-goal lead into the third period, hoping to not repeat what happened Oct. 21 in Boston as the Sabres came back from a 4-1 deficit and posted a 5-4 win in overtime. Boston entered Tuesday 13-0-1 leading after two periods and Buffalo was 1-15-2 when trailing after two. Boston's only blemish and the Sabres' only win in those spots was the first matchup.
After 20 minutes: There was no scoring in a freewheeling and physical first period, with Buffalo posting a 17-10 advantage in shots on goal. The Sabres set a strong tone from the opening shift, with Pouliot and Okposo creating plenty of pressure on the puck in the Boston zone. There were several close calls at both ends, with the Bruins hitting two posts behind Lehner and Jordan Nolan getting stopped on the doorstep by Khudobin just before the horn.
Put 'em up: Jacob Josefson returned to the Buffalo lineup after missing nine games with a recurrence of an ankle problem, but got drilled on his second shift by a hard, clean check from Boston defenseman Kevan Miller. Sabres blueliner Zach Bogosian immediately stepped in and challenged Miller, with both players getting five minutes for their pugilism.
— Harry Scull Jr (@hsjrphoto) December 20, 2017
Long time, no see: The game was the Bruins' first in Buffalo in 355 days, since a 4-2 Boston win here on Dec. 29, 2016. The Bruins swept all four games from Buffalo last season, a first since the Sabres entered the NHL in 1970. The games were all completed by New Year's Eve.
On the tube: NBC Sports Network televised Tuesday's game and it was the beginning of a big national week on television for the Sabres. On Wednesday night at 8, NHL Network will present its hour-long retrospective, "The First NHL Winter Classic, Hockey Goes Outside" on the 2008 Sabres-Penguins game in Ralph Wilson Stadium. Wednesday at 11:30 on NBCSN will be part two of the "Road to the Winter Classic" reality show featuring the current editions of the Sabres and New York Rangers.
In the house: The Sabres announced that 17,811 tickets were sold for the game. Ostensibly with expats and college students returning home for the holidays, the in-house count seemed pretty close to that and was certainly more than it's been in recent games. The crowd included the members of Team Switzerland, already in the area for the start of next week's World Junior Championships.
Up next: The Sabres have practice scheduled the next two days before taking on Philadelphia here Friday night. Their final pre-Christmas game is Saturday night at Carolina.