The Buffalo Sabres are hardly known as a scoring bunch. Most nights, they struggle to reach two. Three is almost considered a parade-worthy event. The goals marched by rapidly Saturday night, with the Sabres treating their sold-out HSBC Arena crowd to six in 60 minutes.
Shockingly, they needed all of them -- and three more.
The Sabres and Boston Bruins engaged in a lamp-lighting festival, as scoring plays developed with ease for both teams. The Sabres' red light shined last, as they scored three times in the shootout and dropped the Bruins, 7-6.
"We got caught up in the world junior spirit in the building," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff, referring to the freewheeling, high-scoring World Junior Championships being held downtown.
It was the busiest night on a Buffalo scoresheet this season, and the mayhem started in the opening seconds and continued to the final ticks of the clock. Drew Stafford scored his third goal of the night with just 27.8 seconds left in regulation, sending the game to the extra session. Stafford, Thomas Vanek and Tyler Ennis beat Tim Thomas in the breakaway event, and Bruins captain Zdeno Chara shot wide while attempting to match goals by teammates Michael Ryder and Tyler Seguin.
"We gave up a few opportunities, obviously, but we did a good job capitalizing on ours, which has been an issue," said Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, beaten six times on 40 shots.
The Sabres repeatedly rallied against a team that rarely allows comebacks. Boston led three times, including most of the final period after scoring twice to erase Buffalo's one-goal advantage. The last comeback was completed by Stafford, who has two hat tricks against the Bruins this season.
Jason Pominville's point shot got caught in traffic in the slot, and Stafford backhanded the loose puck by Thomas to give the 18,690 fans a New Year's Night party.
"That's how most of the goals are scored, just hanging around in front," said Stafford, who has 13 goals in 23 games. "I've been getting some good breaks, just trying to get myself in good position, and it's been working out for me. I'm just trying to keep it going."
The Sabres had little trouble scoring against Boston, but they had plenty of difficulties keeping the Bruins off the scoreboard. The fans who filled the arena saw more goals during the first period than they'd seen for most games at the foot of Washington Street.
The Sabres and their opponents combined for 5.48 goals per game during the first 19 outings this season. Saturday's combatants struck for seven goals before the first intermission. The scoring opened in the first 90 seconds and went right through to the final minute of the first period, with Boston taking a 4-3 lead.
The Bruins tried to slow the scoring surge by swapping goaltender Tuukka Rask (three goals on 16 shots) for Thomas, the Vezina Trophy favorite. Buffalo wasn't impressed and scored twice to take a 5-4 lead into the third period.
"In the second, we played well and got ourselves the lead," Vanek said. "Then we sat back in the third for some odd reason instead of keep going. They grabbed the momentum again. They dominated us most of the third."
The Bruins took 10 of the first 11 shots and scored twice. Tyler Seguin tied the game with 3:08 gone and put the Bruins in front by setting up Steve Kampfer with 12:54 remaining.
Stafford's tying goal and the shootout trifecta dropped the Bruins to 13-0-1 when leading after one period and 15-1-2 when scoring first.
The rally gave the Sabres two straight victories as they prepare to head out West. They play in Colorado on Tuesday, San Jose on Thursday and Phoenix on Saturday.
"We want to get on a roll, and it's two in a row now. Hopefully, we can keep it going because this road trip's going to be important," said Pominville, who had two goals and two assists. "There were more opportunities than you would usually see against a team that's so good defensively. We see ourselves as a good defensive team as well. Obviously, giving up the amount of goals we did, we're not happy about it, but we found a way to battle back and get two points. We'll take it."
>Sabres 7, Bruins 6(SO)
Slap shots: Sabres rally to win wild one, erase late deficit as Ennis gets game-winner in shootout.…Teams combine for seven goals during the first period, with Boston taking a 4-3 lead.…Stafford gets second hat trick of season, including tying goal with 27.8 seconds left in regulation.
Fast fact: The Sabres and their opponents had combined to average just 5.48 goals per game in HSBC Arena entering Saturday night.
Next: Colorado Avalanche, 9 p.m. Tuesday in Pepsi Center.