Final: Boston 3, Buffalo 1
Recap: From start to finish, hardly a minute went by in this one in which Ryan Miller wasn't getting peppered. The Sabres netminder stopped all 16 shots he faced in the first period, but at the 7:10 mark of the second, Boston finally broke through.
Brad Marchand gave the B's a 1-0 lead with his sixth goal of the season, as the Bruins continued to carry the play throughout the middle frame. However, with less than two minutes to go until the second intermission, Tyler Ennis got Anton Khudobin to go down as he pulled the puck from right to left before roofing it over the helpless netminder to knot things up.
In the third, the Black and Gold cashed in on their fifth power play of the evening with a tally from Patrice Bergeron. The Sabres' bid to tie things up was almost nowhere to be found. Milan Lucic closed out the evening with an empty-netter.
Records: Boston 8-1-1, 17 points; Buffalo 5-7-1, 11 points
Key Play of the Game: Miller was nothing short of spectacular, and it was starting to look like he'd steal one for the Sabres for a second night in a row. Bergeron's tally was huge, and -- perhaps more importantly -- snapped an 0-for-17 streak on the man advantage.
Connolly's Commendations: Marchand had a major impact in his return after missing time with an upper-body ailment. No. 63 scored, helped linemates Bergeron and Nathan Horton have multiple stints of sustained play in the Sabres' zone and did a helluva job of pestering Steve Ott and pretty much everyone else in a Buffalo sweater.
Chris Bourque (Boxford, Mass.) also helped his line (Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley) create chances at even strength, had the primary assist on Bergeron's power-play goal and put a season-high three shots on net.
Connolly's Critiques: The glut of power-play time surely played a role, but Johnny Boychuk was... well, invisible might be harsh, but something along those lines. By no means did he play poorly, but I just didn't notice No. 55 throughout most of the night.
Tyler Seguin had two shots in the first period and he -- along with Lucic and David Krejci -- was buzzing, but from there on, the young winger just seemed to be forcing too many passes to his fellow forwards when he should've been shooting. He and Thomas Vanek (who was an absolute ghost for the first time in his career against the Bruins) finished with a game-high three turnovers.
Notes: Boston's 8-1-1 start is the best in team history. Marchand, Dan Paille and Shawn Thornton returned to the lineup tonight. Khudobin stopped 25-of-26 to improve to 2-0-0 on the year. Buffalo was 4-0-1 in their last five games at home against the Bruins.
Final Thoughts: With 20-plus shots before the game was even halfway over, the Bruins were probably more relieved than excited when they finally got on the board. Once they regained they lead, it felt awfully comfortable with Khudobin playing strong in net and the Sabres' not mounting a major surge to force overtime.
Next: The B's will close out their season series with the Blueshirts the two teams clash at TD Garden Tuesday.