For the first time in 21 games, David Legwand scored.
It was a great effort by his fourth line as Matt Moulson and Tim Schaller helped create pressure throughout the shift. A Boston turnover gave Legwand the opportunity to pick up the puck, move from behind the net and slip it between Jonas Gustavsson’s legs.
The goal gave the Buffalo Sabres a 1-0 lead and Legwand his third tally of the season.
But the Sabres offense couldn’t connect again, despite opportunities, and the result was a 4-1 loss to the Boston Bruins in First Niagara Center on Friday night.
“Just a turnover and get them to open up there and slide it through the legs,” Legwand said when describing his goal. “It’s a good momentum thing for our line and our team but to not get the two points is a bigger frustrating point for our team.”
The frustration of failing to find another goal weighed heavy with Legwand. The win was what was important, not the fact he broke a 20-game scoreless drought.
“It’s a good thing but I think we’re more worried about the two points in here,” said Legwand who last scored Nov. 27 in a 4-1 win against Carolina. “Obviously it’s a race and we think in here we’re still in it. These 20 guys, we’ve got to start reeling off some wins in a row and putting something together here before the break.”
Still, the goal was a quality play by the Sabres’ fourth line and the kind of effort on which the team should be able to build momentum.
“Forecheck and offensive zone time,” Dan Bylsma said of the goal. “They had a couple offensive opportunities. Legwand stayed on the puck and picked off that pass and wrapped around for a big goal for us. Best shift in the first period.”
Where the Sabres fell short was the power play. With the 1-0 lead, the Sabres had three straight power plays early in the second period. They had a lot of puck possession and shot attempts and seven shots on net. But once again they couldn’t capitalize.
“We had a couple of good opportunities, some flurries,” Bylsma said, “but not the decisive shot, decisive opportunity to get the goal.”
The Sabres finished 0 for 4 on the power play.
“They kept it tight,” Brian Gionta said of the Bruins’ penalty kill. “They blocked a lot. They kind of kept us to the outside. Anything that did get through it was back on the outside. We had a tough time penetrating.”
Zemgus Girgensons left the game with an upper body injury in the first period.
“We’ll evaluate further. We’ll know more tomorrow,” Bylsma said. When asked if Girgensons would play in Saturday’s game against Washington Bylsma replied “highly unlikely.”
Mike Weber was in the lineup for the 16th time in 17 games as the veteran defenseman worked his way back into the lineup. He had missed a block of 13 games from Nov. 10 to Dec. 6 – with a combination of a knee injury and healthy scratches.
With the Sabres now carrying eight healthy defensemen, Mark Pysyk was a healthy scratch for the second game since being activated off injured reserve, Weber knows his ice time is never a lock.
“It doesn’t change anything in my mindset,” Weber said of the abundance of defensemen and the limited playing spots. “I think every man individually has a focus and what they need to do to help this team. We kind of let the coaches decide who’s in, who’s out. I don’t get to pick the lineups so all I can do is show up to the rink, continue to work hard, work on the things I need to do to have personal success and then obviously have success for the team. That’s my main focus right now.”
But focus, admittedly, can be difficult to come by these days. The Feb. 29 trade deadline is looming and with Weber set to become an unrestricted free agent, there’s a chance his days in Buffalo may be numbered. The standard answer from players is that they only focus on elements within their control. The reality lies somewhere in the middle between distraction and detachment.
“I mean, you’re human,” Weber said with a slight smile. “There’s not too many jobs out there where one day you can be somewhere and the next day you have to move your entire family somewhere else. It’s an honor to be in this league. It’s special to be in this league but in that aspect, obviously you think about it. It crosses your mind. But at the end of the day, it’s kind of like the lineup – I can’t control what the management staff does, the calls they’re taking, the calls they’re making. You can’t control that.
“I’m a Buffalo Sabre. I’ve bled blue and gold here for a lot of years and I want nothing more than success here but again I can’t control what happens in the next month or so.”