Where: KeyBank Center, Buffalo, New York
BUFFALO – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by Sports Xchange) -The Boston Bruins had another slow start out of the gates Thursday night, but were able to overcome it.
Ryan Spooner scored the game-winner with 3:53 remaining and added an empty-net goal with 51.5 seconds remaining to lead the Bruins to a 4-2 comeback victory over the Buffalo Sabres. Boston trailed 2-0.
“I felt like we showed lots of character,” Bruins center David Krejci said.
Krejci and Patrice Bergeron also scored for the Bruins (19-15-4). On the game-winner, Spooner received a pass from Krejci and ripped a one-timer from the middle of the ice.
“We showed that we can battle back,” said goaltender Tuukka Rask, who was terrific in making 31 saves. “The really good thing was that we battled back in the second and then in the third we just took it to them. We weren’t afraid to lose the game, we wanted to win it.”
Slow starts have been a problem this season for the Bruins. Heading into the game, Boston was 1-6-2 when trailing after 20 minutes. In Boston’s past 12 games, the Bruins fell behind by two goals or more on six different occasions, and this was the first time they came away with a victory after falling behind over that stretch.
“Yeah, it’s kind of a trend here,” Spooner said. “As a team I’m not really sure what’s going on but it’s something we need to discuss. The second and third have been great for us, but the first has been an issue.”
Marcus Foligno and Kyle Okposo scored for the Sabres (13-14-8), who wasted one of their best periods of the season. Robin Lehner made 34 saves.
“That was a great first period,” Foligno said. “That was probably our best period all year, with the emotion, goals and just the way we came out hitting. It’s frustrating. We talk about starts, we get it. We just don’t have a good finish.”
Foligno began Buffalo’s strong start by scoring at 1:32. Following a strong Buffalo forecheck, Foligno snapped a quick shot from the left circle for his fifth goal of the season.
Things got chippy as the first period progressed. Bruins right winger David Backes left the game with 5:07 remaining in the first period after a hard hit by William Carrier. The Sabres left wing was given a penalty for an illegal check to the head.
The Bruins looked for retribution on Carrier two minutes later, but the move backfired. Defenseman Adam McQuaid started a fight with Carrier, which was quickly broken up by officials, and McQuaid was given an additional two-minute penalty for instigating and a 10-minute misconduct.
Carrier suffered a hand injury during the fight and did not return.
Buffalo took a 2-0 lead on the ensuing power play. Okposo’s quick strike from the right circle increased the Sabres’ lead with 1:50 left in the period.
“Certainly you take a two-goal lead any night after a period and you think you’re going to get a point,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said.
The Bruins bounced back at the start of the second period, striking quickly at 3:20 on Patrice Bergeron’s sixth goal of the year. Following a faceoff win, center Brad Marchand spotted Bergeron in the slot, and Bergeron lifted a quick one-timer.
Krejci evened the score on the power play with 3:47 remaining in the second. With Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges in the box for tripping, Krejci grabbed a loose puck from close range and scored on a backhand shot for his eighth goal of the year.
The Bruins had the upper hand in the third, outshooting Buffalo 13-7.
The teams meet again Saturday in Boston.
“It should give us a boost for the next game but we have to focus and be ready from the puck drop, not just when we’re down a couple goals,” Krejci said.
NOTES: D Dmitry Kulikov (lower back) and C Ryan O’Reilly (appendectomy) were scratched for the Sabres. Kulikov is considered day-to-day after his back flared up once again. “It’s something that Dmitry’s dealt with for a long time,” Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. “It just flared up over (the Christmas) break, the three days off, and going into the (previous) game kind of flared up a little bit. We’re hopeful that not playing in this game he’ll get better and he’ll get some recovery and get back.” … RW Jimmy Hayes, D Joe Morrow and C Noel Acciari were scratched for the Bruins.