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 Boston Bruins have needed no one’s help to play lazy, lackadaisical, .500 hockey since mid-January. But Saturday afternoon against the New York Islanders, they got a little help from the referees.
A possibly uncalled icing penalty late in the third led to a tie-breaking goal by center John Tavares, and Evgeni Nabokov saved 32 of 34 shots to secure a 3-2 victory over the Bruins at the TD Garden.Tuukka Rask left midway through the second with an undisclosed injury.
The Bruins now lead the Ottawa Senators in the Northeast Division by just three points with 19 games left, including one against the Senators.
Bruins Lose Focus Late in Third
The Bruins appeared headed for at least a point midway through the third, having tied the game 2-2 on a typically dazzling goal by Tyler Seguin. David Krejci won a faceoff in his zone, then fed it to Zdeno Chara. Chara bounced a pass to Seguin off the boards in the neutral zone, and Seguin eluded both defenseman Andrew MacDonald and Nabokov to tie the game at 7:29.
But with about five minutes left in the game, Johnny Boychuk in his first game back post-concussion rocketed the puck from behind the Bruins’ goal line the entire length of the ice. Both Seguin and Milan Lucic sprinted to try to beat the icing call, but no referee signaled that either had touched the puck.
Without an indication from the referee, the Bruins expected an icing call when left winger Matt Moulson touched the puck in his own zone. But no call occurred, and the confused Bruins allowed Moulson a free pass through the neutral zone and into their right circle. Moulson fired on goal, and Tavares tipped it in at 4:29 for a 3-2 lead.
The Buffalo Sabres played Wednesday’s game as a team desperately needing wins to keep its playoff hopes alive should: intelligent but physical, controlled but aggressive.
The Boston Bruins played as a team with a chance at the Eastern Conference’s top spot should not: lazy, disorganized, brainless.
Who do you think won?
The Sabres scored twice in each period Wednesday, cruising to a 6-0 blowout victory over the Bruins in Buffalo.
Poor Defense Rattles Rask
It was clear just minutes into the game that Tuukka Rask hadn’t brought his A-game to First Niagara Center. When Christian Ehrhoff fired from the blue line following a d-to-d pass from Tyler Myers, Rask misjudged the puck once it glanced off Gregory Campell, giving the Sabres a 1-0 lead on just their second shot of the game.
The Sabres went up 2-0 with just over five minutes left in the first when center Ville Leino made a nifty spin in the Bruins’ left circle, avoiding the defense and centering the puck to Jason Pominville. Pominville quickly chipped it in, with defenseman Mike Weber also assisting.
Clearly rattled by two goals that were as much his defense’s fault as his own, Rask lasted just 1:52 into the second period, when Andrej Sekera found Tyler Ennis in the neutral zone. Ennis changed direction twice in the Bruins’ zone, eluding multiple defenders before ricocheting a backhand off the goalpost and in for the 3-0 lead.
Rask exited the game following Ennis’ goal, having given up three goals in just 10 shots. It was his worst outing since lasting just one period and giving up three goals to the same Sabres on Jan. 1, 2010.
The Bruins won Thursday’s game just 1:14 into the first period. Benoit Pouliot – moving up a line because Brad Marchand had the flu – took the puck through the neutral zone and into the Flames’ zone. Pouliot then dished the puck to Bergeron along the boards by the right circle. Bergeron took the puck behind the net, then at the last second passed it in front to an awaiting Tyler Seguin.
Seguin wasted no time putting it past Calgary goalie Leland Irving for the only goal the Bruins would need. Not that that slowed down the offense or anything.
The Bruins went up 2-0 two minutes later on a bizarre shot by Milan Lucic. Stationed behind the right circle and not facing Leland, Lucic fired off a wristshot. Wherever the puck was supposed to go, it instead bounced off Flames center Olli Jokinen, ricocheting with such force that it went past a very surprised Irving and in for a 2-0 lead at 3:17. Horton and David Krejci both earned assists.
The Buffalo Sabres start fights. The Boston Bruins finish them.
And they win games.
Zdeno Chara‘s power play goal in the third period of Wednesday’s game in Buffalo completed a two-goal comeback, and Benoit Pouliot scored in the fifth round of the shootout to beat the Sabres, 4-3.
The Bruins have now won 10 games in a row and lead the Northeast division. They need just two points to catch the conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins.
Third Period Remains Bruins’ Ally
The Bruins entered Wednesday’s game as the highest-scoring third-period team in the NHL. And down 3-2 entering the third, they played like it, pounding the puck repeatedly at Sabre goalie Jhonas Enroth.
The Bruins’ offensive onslaught earned them a power play at 2:11, when center Derek Roy hooked Rich Peverley. Despite two shorthanded Buffalo shots to start the power play, Boston eventually worked the puck back towards Enroth.
Chara fired off a wristshot from 58 feet which Enroth deflected, but the puck came to David Krejci in the slot. Krejci opted not to shoot, instead passing to Milan Lucic just to the right of the goal post.
Lucic then sent the puck back to Chara at the blue line, and Chara fired off a powerful slapshot that sailed past Enroth to tie the game 3-3 at 3:35.
When Shawn Thornton threw down with Toronto Maple Leaf right winger Colton Orr early in the Bruins’ game Thursday night at the TD Garden, he sent a clear message: No more listless hockey. We’re fighting back.
And boy, did they ever.
Four different Bruins posted three-point games, and two first-period power play goals kick-started a high-energy, high-intensity 6-2 Bruins victory over the Maple Leafs.
The Bruins’ Powerful Power Play
Despite aggressive offensive play from the Bruins in the game’s opening minutes, the Leafs struck first when center Tyler Bozak found David Steckel, who fired a slapshot past Tim Thomas with 7:29 gone in the first. The Leafs went up 1-0, and once again it looked like the dejected Bruins would have to play from behind.
This time, however, Boston only had to play from behind for three minutes. Matt Frattin took out Benoit Pouliot, and halfway through the resulting power play David Krejci won a faceoff in Toronto’s zone. Krejci fed it back to Andrew Ference, who crossed to Zdeno Chara inside the blue line. Chara fired a bullet at Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who blocked the shot, but the puck bounced in front of the goal. Nathan Horton collected the rebound and quickly put it in the net to tie the game with just over 10 minutes left in the first.
The Bruins won over 60 percent of their faceoffs Monday against the Colorado Avalanche at the TD Garden. One of the few they lost came back to haunt them.
Avalanche right winger Milan Hejduk scored with eight minutes gone in the third after teammate Peter Mueller won a faceoff in the Bruins’ zone, and goalkeeper Semyon Varlamov stopped all 30 Bruins shots to give the Avalanche a 1-0 victory over the Bruins. The Bruins finished their season-opening homestand 1-2, while the Avalanche scored and won for the first time.
Hejduk Spoils Strong Game from Rask
Tuukka Rask wanted desperately to show his 2010-11 season was a fluke, and that the real Rask just took a year off following a sterling 2009-10. And for over two periods Monday, Rask succeeded. No matter whether the Avalanche shot from far away (such as defenceman Kyle Quincey‘s 39-footer early in the first) or from point-blank range (such as Hedjuk’s powerplay shot from 13 feet away later in the period), Rask corralled everything thrown his way, gobbling up the puck to prevent rebounds.
Rask stopped all 29 Avalanche shots through two, keeping the Bruins in the game until his save off a Mueller wrist-shot caused a faceoff in the Bruins’ zone. Mueller won it and dished it quickly to nearby center Matt Duchene. Duchene fed it to defenceman Jan Hejda near the blue line, who then hit Hedjuk along the boards. Hedjuk turned and fired off a wrist-shot from 29 feet away that squeaked between Rask and the right goal post. Zdeno Chara may also have partially screened Rask.
Before the 2011-12 Boston Bruins’ season starts on Oct. 6 fast approaching, let’s see who might be scoring for the Bruins by looking line-by-line at the forwards.
First Line: Lucic, Krejci, Horton
The Bruins’ first line is unlikely to change after a fantastic postseason. Center David Krejci led all NHL players with 12 playoff goals and 23 points. Right winger Nathan Horton added eight goals and 17 points despite missing the final four games of the Stanley Cup with a concussion, and left winger Milan Lucic chipped in five and 12. All this came after the trio scored a combined 69 goals and 177 points in the regular season.
This line mixes fire power with a fiery attitude. Krejci provides a strong anchor, able to both pass (he led the line with 49 assists) and shoot. Horton, meanwhile, might be the best pure shooter on the team. He can attack the goal from many angles and distances, and teams have to keep a lock on him the moment he gets into those circles.
Lucic is both a shooter and a spark plug, and as an unabashed brawler, he’s become quite popular among Bruins fans. He’ll mix it up with anyone, and his size and speed make him hard to out-muscle on the ice. His agility has led to so many exciting step-around moves, and his shot-strength is such that one risks missing the play entirely by blinking whenever he shoots.