The Boston Bruins have rarely played “complete” hockey over the last two months, alternating losses with frustrating, indecisive victories. And on those few occasions when they submitted a complete game, they never followed it with a second.
The Bruins capitalized on two goals in the final period Thursday night at TD Garden, beating the Buffalo Sabres, 3-1. The Bruins have now won two in a row for the first time since Jan. 10 and 12.
Boychuk, Bruins Finish Game in Style
The Bruins came out of the second intermission playing confident, aggressive hockey. They dominated the opening two minutes of the third, firing five times at Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth and forcing him to make two saves. Enroth survived the early scare, but his team could do little to give him any breathing room, with the Bruins defense’s back-pressure limiting the speedy Sabres’ scoring opportunities and man-advantages.
The Bruins played an incredibly physical game, out-hitting the Sabres 30-23, including 12-7 in the third. The biggest hit came from Johnny Boychuk, who midway through the period leveled left winger Thomas Vanek with a completely clean, open-ice check just inside the Sabres’ zone.
As a reward for his Garden-energizing hit, Boychuk scored what proved to be the game-winning goal with just over seven minutes left in the game. Jordan Caron began the sequence with a takeaway in the Sabres’ zone, forcing defenseman Jordan Leopold to dive to block Caron’s shot.
Leopold blocked the puck with his stick, but the puck slid to an awaiting Boychuk in the right circle. Boychuk ripped a slapshot just under the crossbar for the 2-1 lead. Caron got the assist on Boychuck’s first goal since early December.
The goal briefly aroused the Sabres’ slowed-down offense, leading to two shots at Tim Thomas in two seconds. But the Sabres failed to tie the game, and Zdeno Chara took momentum back with some nifty stick-handling, weaving the puck around several Sabres before finding Tyler Seguin just outside the blue line.
Seguin fed the puck up to Milan Lucic, who took the puck to the Buffalo left circle before threading a pass to David Krejci in the slot. Krejci drifted just to the right of the goal before lifting his shot just under the crossbar for a 3-1 lead at 15:54. Both Lucic and Seguin earned assists.
The Sabres tried once more to get back in the game, even pulling Enroth with just over two minutes left, but Thomas saved anything that got through to him. He finished with 19 saves in 20 attempts.
Caron nearly added an empty-net goal late in the game, but his shot sailed above the goal. In his last three games, Caron has scored three goals and recorded three assists.
Sabres Score in First, Bruins Tie in Second
Despite the Bruins dominating the first period, out-performing the Sabres in shots (13-6), hits (9-5) and faceoffs (13-6), the Sabres scored first. Right winger Jason Pominville received the puck in the neutral zone from Vanek, then took it across the blue line.
Chara may have been trying to angle Pominville to the side to protect against a 2-on-1, but instead Pominville just skated into the Bruins’ right circle and ripped a slapshot above Thomas’ glove for the 1-0 lead at 16:39 in the first period.
For much of the second period, the Bruins couldn’t capitalize on any of several scoring opportunities. Enroth saved a shot against Lane MacDermid two minutes in, then just over nine minutes in denied Seguin on the kind of breakaway Seguin normally buries with style. When Dennis Seidenberg‘s slapshot from 55 feet ringed off the goalpost, it looked like the Bruins might fall victim to a fluke performance from Enroth, who in his previous 10 games had gone 0-7-2 with a GAA over 3.00.
That all changed with two minutes to go, when a pass from Sabre defenseman Christian Ehrhoff in his right circle kicked off Cody Hodgson‘s skate in the high slot. The puck slid to Shawn Thornton, who immediately ripped a shot at Enroth.
Gregory Campbell – whose forechecking on Ehrhoff led to the bad pass – brought raised his stick and redirected the shot midair above Enroth’s glove to tie the game 1-1.
With the streak of games without consecutive wins finally over, hopefully the Bruins can either finally start chipping away at the Rangers’ eight-point lead atop the Eastern Conference, or at least put some real distance between themselves and the Senators in the race for the Northeast Division. Boston returns to the ice Saturday afternoon against Washington.