Linus Ullmark’s movements in net were calm compared to some of the acrobatics typically seen from the Buffalo Sabres’ starting goalie.
Yet, on an innocent shot early in the first period Tuesday night, Ullmark appeared to be in discomfort upon standing from the butterfly position after making a save on Boston Bruins defenseman Mike Reilly.
Moments later, Ullmark skated to the bench and was promptly replaced by backup Dustin Tokarski only 4:54 into the game. Ullmark, a pending unrestricted free agent whom General Manager Kevyn Adams chose not to trade ahead of the deadline Monday, did not return because of a lower-body injury.
Though Ullmark's absence loomed large, the Sabres withstood the bruising Bruins' blitz and showed the resilience that's become commonplace under interim coach Don Granato, tying the score in the third period before losing 3-2 in a shootout at TD Garden.
The Sabres (10-25-7) are 4-2-3 in their last nine games and snapped a string of 15 consecutive regulation losses to the East Division's top four teams: Washington, the New York Islanders, Pittsburgh and Boston. The Bruins (22-12-6) still occupy the division's fourth and final playoff spot.
Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar, both of whom were traded by the Sabres to Boston ahead of the deadline, earned a win in their Bruins debut. Winger Anders Bjork, acquired by Buffalo in the deal, assisted on Colin Miller’s opening goal in the first period.
The Sabres appeared overwhelmed by the Bruins’ pressure on the puck, as Boston’s checking-line players provided a heavy presence on the forecheck. This approach led to a possession advantage for the Bruins, who received goals from David Krejci and Craig Smith. Buffalo, though, tied the score with 8:07 remaining in regulation when Rasmus Dahlin's shot from the point went off a Boston defender and bounced into the net to make it 2-2.
Tokarski stopped 29 of 31 shots in relief of Ullmark, whom General Manager Kevyn Adams wants to sign to a contract extension. The Sabres finished with only 23 shots on goal. An update on Ullmark's status won't be available until Wednesday.
Opening salvo: Rookie center Dylan Cozens won a battle for the puck along the right wall and his pass toward the slot was deflected toward Miller, whose slapshot from the point beat Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman 1:52 into the game.
Bjork recorded his first point with the Sabres by earning the secondary assist. This also ended Miller’s 17-game goal drought.
Tying marker: Tokarski made an initial save on Jeremy Lauzon’s slap shot from the point, only to watch Krejci score on the rebound to tie the score 1-1 at 13:20 into the first period. Moments before the goal, Sabres forward Riley Sheahan appeared to suffer an injury on a blindside hit by the Bruins’ Nick Ritchie. Sheahan returned for the second period, only to miss the third period.
Missed opportunities: The Bruins took three minor penalties in a span of 3:51, giving the Sabres a 5-on-3 for 28 seconds. Buffalo managed only three power-play shots during its time on the man advantage in the first period.
Boston finished the first period with an 11-5 edge in shots on goal, despite having to kill three penalties.
Ugly play: Hall drove to the net and attempted a no-look drop pass that left the puck in the right circle. Sabres defenseman Jacob Bryson could not find the puck, allowing Smith to score on a shot inside the far post for a 2-1 lead at 5:29.
Difficult second: The Sabres had only seven shots on goal in the second period – 12 through 40 minutes – in what was their sloppiest segment of hockey in a week. The only promising scoring opportunity came when Kyle Okposo’s pass gave Cozens an open look backdoor, but Swayman made the sprawling save to maintain the lead for Boston.
Entering Tuesday, the Sabres were 1-21-1 when trailing after the second period.
Responses: Thompson and Irwin were assessed major penalties for fighting when they dropped the gloves against Ritchie and Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller, respectively. Irwin engaged Ritchie in response to hits on Sheahan and Dahlin, while Thompson came immediately after Miller delivered a hit on Rasmus Asplund.
Lineup: Jack Eichel (upper body), Carter Hutton (lower body) and Will Borgen (forearm) remain out of the Sabres’ lineup. Winger Tobias Rieder was a healthy scratch with Bjork making his Sabres debut. Rieder has one goal and one assist in his last 16 games in the lineup.
Next: The Sabres are scheduled to practice Wednesday in Washington’s Capital One Arena in preparation for a game against the Capitals on Thursday night.