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The Wraparound: Sabres tie the score twice before losing to Bruins 5-2

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Sabres Bruins Hockey

Sabres defenseman Will Borgen and Bruins right wing Craig Smith crash against the boards during the first period Thursday night in TD Garden.

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BOSTON  Sam Reinhart banged his stick against the panel of glass in frustration.

Reinhart, the Buffalo Sabres’ best player during this shortened season, had just bolted toward his own net after a turnover, only to watch Boston Bruins center Charlie Coyle score the go-ahead goal.

It was a difficult moment for the Sabres after Reinhart helped them rally for a second time Thursday night. The goal would stand as the game-winner, as the Bruins held on for a 5-2 victory in TD Garden.  

The Sabres (13-31-7) have lost six of their last eight games and are 7-8-2 since their franchise-record 18-game winless streak ended March 31.

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, making his third career start and second in as many games, stopped 35 of 39 shots. He was backed by Casey Mittelstadt and Reinhart, both of whom tied the score. Reinhart’s 23rd goal of the season made it 2-2 with 18:17 remaining in the third period.

The Bruins (29-14-6) received goals from David Pastrnak and David Krejci, the latter of which gave Boston a 2-1 lead late in the first. Coyle scored after he intercepted a Reinhart pass attempt in the neutral zone with 12:02 left in regulation.

Former Sabres winger Taylor Hall helped the Bruins pull away with a goal in the third period. Hall has five goals and three assists for eight points in 10 games since the trade to Boston. Brad Marchand added an empty-netter.

Opening salvo: Marchand retrieved the puck in the neutral zone and skated down the right wing to create a 2-on-1 rush for Boston. Patrice Bergeron received the puck and passed to the left circle, where Pastrnak one-timed a shot for a 1-0 lead at 1:16 into the game.

Entering Thursday, the Bruins were 20-5-3 when scoring first.

Momentum swing: The Sabres started to generate chances because of several bad turnovers by the Bruins. Reinhart had a shot from the right circle gloved by Tuukka Rask, and Drake Caggiula was stopped twice from the slot.

Buffalo finally broke through at 14:09 with Mittelstadt scoring off a rebound created by Arttu Ruotsalainen to tie the game 1-1. Pastrnak turned the puck over on the breakout, and Rasmus Asplund managed to pass it to Ruotsalainen in the right-wing circle.

The goal extended Mittelstadt’s point streak to four games. He has 14 points in 17 games dating back to March 31.

Bad timing: The Sabres’ penalty kill entered the game 6-for-6 against Boston this season. The run of success ended with Krejci’s one-timer hitting the near post, ricocheting off Lukkonen’s back and crossing the line for a 2-1 Bruins lead with 0.04 seconds remaining in the first period.

The Bruins had the final six shots of the first period, while the Sabres have led at the first intermission only 11 times in 51 games this season. Boston’s power play was 2-for-28 over its previous 11 games.

Close calls: The Sabres tightened up defensively in the second period, allowing only two high-danger scoring chances at 5-on-5, according to NaturalStatTrick.com. However, they also failed to generate opportunities.

Reinhart cut across the slot, only for his backhander to be stopped by Rask. Dylan Cozens had a shot from the left circle stopped and no one was able to capitalize on the rebound. Buffalo’s power play also failed to score, despite having solid puck movement. Rasmus Dahlin was also stopped on a breakaway after exiting the penalty box.

Shots were 15-11 in favor of Boston in the second period. Luukkonen kept the deficit at one with two strong saves, including one where Hall cut across the slot with 4:21 remaining.

Entering Friday, the Sabres were 1-25-2 when trailing at the second intermission.

Battle won: Victor Olofsson outmuscled the Bruins for a loose puck behind the net and sent a centering pass in front, where an uncovered Reinhart scored on a shot under the crossbar to make it 2-2. Since moving to center on March 31, Reinhart has 11 goals with five assists for 16 points in 17 games.

Lineup: Defensemen Colin Miller and Matt Irwin and center Cody Eakin were scratched for the Sabres. Eakin returned to Buffalo to be with his wife for the birth of their child.

Playoff format: The American Hockey League confirmed Thursday that it won’t be able to conduct the Calder Cup Playoffs this season. As a result, each division will crown a champion based on points percentage. The Rochester Americans (8-11-3) are sitting sixth out of seven in the North Division.

Additionally, the AHL plans to begin the 2021-22 season on Oct. 15. It will conclude on April 24, 2022.

Next: The Sabres are scheduled to practice Friday in Boston in preparation for their game Saturday afternoon against the Bruins. Puck drop is scheduled for 1 p.m.

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News Sports Reporter

I've covered the Sabres and National Hockey League for The Buffalo News since November 2018. My previous work included coverage of the Pittsburgh Pirates and University of Pittsburgh athletics for DKPittsburghSports.com.

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