Final: Buffalo 4, Boston 2
Recap: With the Bruins on a power play late in the first period, Brian Flynn (Lynnfield, Mass.) took advantage of Johnny Boychuk's inability to handle a puck at the point, breaking in alone and scoring on a sweet backhander that eluded Chad Johnson to stake the Sabres to a rare early lead.
Boston evened things up 1:50 into the middle frame on a shorty of their own, with Brad Marchand beating Ryan Miller for his sixth goal of the campaign. Goal No. 7 came just 1:14 later for No. 63, who came in as the trailing forward, got open just outside the slot and fired a wrister past Miller to make it 2-1.
After a Marcus Foligno goal knotted things up at two apiece, Boston controlled play to start the third and it seemed like only a matter of time until they buried Buffalo. However, just the opposite happened. Drew Stafford buried a wraparound attempt with a little over five minutes remaining, and Tyler Myers added an insurance marker with 4:21 to go to ice it.
Records: Buffalo 9-23-3, 21 points; Boston 23-10-2, 48 points
Key Play of the Game: Stafford's game-winning goal was a doozy. Just as he did on a David Perron goal in Edmonton, Johnson was far too slow to get from one post to the other on a wraparound bid. Stafford made it look easy, and made the B's netminder look bad in the process.
Connolly's Commendations: After having his GM squash trade rumors earlier in the day, Marchand turned in his best performance of the season. The 5-foot-9 winger had two tallies and a season-high five shots on goal.
Despite finishing minus-2, you have to like Ryan Spooner's performance tonight. The third line generated quality chances at even strength. Spooner pitched in on the PK with 58 seconds of shorthanded ice time and had a big block on Myers.
Connolly's Critiques: Johnson's rough go of it in Buffalo snapped his five-game winning streak. The B's can't complain, given that their backup goaltender is 6-2-0 on the season, but Johnson will be happy to put this one behind him as soon as possible.
Notes: Patrice Bergeron had gone 71 games without committing two minor penalties in one game, which he was guilty of tonight. The last instance was a Jan. 28 win over Carolina during the lockout-shortened, 2012-13 season. ... The Sabres notched just their third regulation win on home ice. This was their 21st tilt at First Niagara Center this season. ... David Warsofsky (Marshfield, Mass.) looked solid in his NHL debut. The former BU defenseman saw 12:29 of ice time. He finished minus-1.
Final Thoughts: The first-place team can't take care of business every time they face a last-place club, but that doesn't mean you can't fret over the Bruins not doing so against a Sabres team that's improved since a disastrous start to the year but is ultimately an inferior foe. Furthermore, Boston seemed to have this game in control, but their grip on it slipped away quick in the final minutes.
Next: The B's will return to Boston to complete a home-and-home series with the Sabres on Saturday night.