Where: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
Referees: Gord Dwyer, Tom Kowal
Linesmen: Trent Knorr, Ryan Daisy
BOSTON – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by Sports Xchange) – – This time, the Boston Bruins didn’t get off to a slow start. It made a difference.
“It’s something we’ve talked about,” Tuukka Rask said after making 26 saves in a 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday that completed sweeps of both a home-and-home set and the four-game season series with the Sabres.
“We want to get that first goal more often,” Rask said. “I thought we came out really strong today — like we wanted to. It paid off today. It’s something we have to do more often.”
After falling behind 3-0 and 2-0 the last two games and by either 2-0 or 3-0 in six of the last 12, Boston came out strong, built a 3-0 lead and then finished off the first series sweep by either team in the history of the rivalry between the old Adams Division foes.
Boston outscored Buffalo, 13-4, in the four games.
Frank Vatrano, Patrice Bergeron and former Sabre Tim Schaller scored goals to build the lead as the Bruins (20-15-4) won for only the second time in their last six home games — squaring their home record at 9-9.
“Being from Mass. growing up, everyone’s dream was to score here in the Garden,” said Vatrano, who has two goals and four points in five games since coming back from foot surgery.
Former Boston University star Jack Eichel cut into the Bruins lead with 21.2 seconds left in the second period on his seventh goal in 15 games this season.
After the game, Eichel was anything but happy with the goal or anything else, slamming equipment, screaming and then leaving the room without talking to the media.
“I think every one of us should be. … We should all find that desperation, that urgency, that anger,” said coach Dan Bylsma, whose team is 1-4-2 in its last seven and is in last place in the Eastern Conference.
Added Sam Reinhart: “It’s frustrating now. Something has to change and it has to come from the inside.”
The game was a chippy affair, with the teams still upset at each other for Thursday’s events.
William Carrier, who knocked Boston’s David Backes out indefinitely with a concussion (the Bruins made the official announcement during the game), didn’t play because of a hand injury but there was still plenty of hard hitting.
The Sabres (13-15-8) lost two players in the first period — Johan Larsson suffering what appears to be a dislocated wrist on a heavy hit by Adam McQuaid, and Josh Georges leaving because of a hip pointer. Gorges was seen limping as he left the locker room.
Much of the hitting was done by the Bruins early, as they came out determined to shed their early-game problems — and they did it against the Sabres.
Rask improved to 19-7-3 this season and 13-5-1 lifetime against the Sabres (4-0 this season). He and the Bruins killed a 67-second two-man disadvantage in the first period.
The Bruins’ power play, hardly a strength all season, came through for the fourth time in the last five games when Bergeron scored.
Robin Lehner had 25 saves but fell to 8-12-5 -– only 3-10-3 lifetime against Boston. He has started more games against the Bruins (17) than any other team.
The Bruins are 11-1-2 in their last 14 games against Buffalo, 6-1-2 in their last nine at home.
“We played much better — better start,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien, whose team has won one more game than it has lost. “We were playing with the lead, which makes a big difference. In the third period we played smart.”
NOTES: Bruins LW Brad Marchand, who had an assist, talked pregame about taking on a Buffalo Twitter basher who threw a homophobic slur at him concerning he and Zdeno Chara. Marchand’s counter-attack resulted in account deletion. “Nowadays it’s not right to go after people that way so I figured I’d get it out there,” he said, adding he “has a few friends that are in same-sex relationships” and that “He (the basher) ended up deleting his Twitter.” … Buffalo D Rasmus Ristolainen came in with assists on 29.2 of his teammates’ goals, No. 3 in the league, and assisted on Buffalo’s only goal, his 16th point in the last 14 games and his 22nd assist of the season. … Denna Laing, who suffered a severe spinal injury in a game last Dec. 31 that was part of last year’s Winter Classic, dropped the first puck. … The Bruins hung team jersey Nos. 10 and 19 on their bench in warmups to honor James Lavin and Owen Higgins, the Plymouth high school players killed recently in a car accident. Their names were on the backs of the shirts. … The Bruins are at New Jersey on Monday, the Sabres at the Rangers on Tuesday.
Buffalo at Boston
When: 1:00 PM ET, Saturday, December 31, 2016
Where: TD Garden, Boston, Mass
BOSTON – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – One could understand if the Boston Bruins are lamenting the fact that Saturday’s matchup against the visiting Buffalo Sabres is the last of the season between the Atlantic Division rivals. Boston has won the first three meetings by a combined 10-3 score as it seeks a sweep of the season series in the second leg of a home-and-home in a matinee at TD Garden.
Buffalo lost for the fifth time in six games (1-3-2) after coughing up an early two-goal lead in Thursday’s 4-2 loss to the Bruins. “You take a two-goal lead any night after a period and you think you’re going to get a point,” said Sabres coach Bylsma, who called the opening 20 minutes his team’s “best” of the season. Ryan Spooner scored a pair of third-period goals to cap the comeback for Boston, which continues to thrive on the road. The Bruins enter Saturday’s matchup with an 11-6-4 record away from home as opposed to an 8-9-0 mark at TD Garden.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, MSG-B (Buffalo), NESN (Boston)
ABOUT THE SABRES (13-14-8): Jack Eichel grew up outside Boston and played collegiately at Boston University before Buffalo selected him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft. Eichel enjoyed the best game of his career in his first professional appearance at TD Garden a year ago, lighting up the Bruins for two goals and two assists. Rookie William Carrier sustained a gash on his hand in a fight with Adam McQuaid following the heavy hit on David Backes, prompting the Sabres to call up Justin Bailey from Rochester of the American Hockey League.
ABOUT THE BRUINS (19-15-4): Backes is not expected to play Saturday after he absorbed a blindside hit to the head from Carrier, knocking him out of Thursday’s game and forcing him to miss Friday’s practice session. “He’s being assessed today and (the organization) should produce something when they know more,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “Obviously he’s seeing the doctors and he’s seeing everybody else. That’s all I have.” Frank Vatrano will take Backes’ spot on a line with Spooner and David Krejci, who had a goal and assist Thursday.
1. Krecji has two goals and three assists during a three-game point streak.
2. Sabres F Matt Moulson ended a five-game point drought with a pair of assists Thursday.
3. Bruins G Tuukka Rask is 12-5-1 against the Sabres after beating them for the third time this season.
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.