The temperature outside of 100 Legends Way and most of New England was heating up. Unfortunately for the team that plays its home games inside the TD Garden, the same cannot be said for the Bruins. The Bruins have been playing .500 hockey as of late, going 5-5-1 in their last 11 games, and are looking to win consecutive games for the first time since January 10th. Buffalo, on the other hand, has looked extremely well in their past 10 games posting a 7-1-2 record, and now find themselves only two points out of a playoff spot.
Coming as no surprise to Boston fans, especially with the injury to backup goaltender Tuukka Rask, Tim Thomas got the nod in net. Those fans looking for a goalie showdown between former Olympic teammates Thomas and Buffalo goaltender Ryan Miller would be disappointed, as Jhonas Enroth would be between the pipes for the Sabres. This is Buffalo’s first time back in Boston since Bruins’ forward Milan Lucic’s controversial hit on Miller that resulted in Miller missing eight games due to a concussion. Both teams were looking for those precious two points as the regular season starts to wind down. If the Bruins were going to win they stood a good chance because Enroth’s lifetime record against the Bruins is 0-2-1 with a 4.79 goals against average.
The first period started with some pressure by the Bruins. Buffalo didn’t register their first shot on net until 4 minutes in and it was a weak backhand dump in that Thomas easily stopped with his glove. The physicality started to pick up about five minutes into the first, with the Bruins delivering a couple of textbook body checks. The Bruins were the first team to go on the power play thanks to a Drew Stafford hooking penalty. The Bruins were unable to convert on the man advantage but picked up some great momentum thanks to a couple of quality scoring chances by Patrice Bergeron. With 3:21 remaining in the period Buffalo’s captain, Jason Pomenville gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead on a wicked slap shot that beat Thomas high glove side. Despite outshooting Buffalo 13 to 6, the Bruins went into the locker rooms trailing 1-0 after one.
The Bruins would have their work cut out for them. When trailing after the first the Bruins have a 6-13-1 record, while Buffalo entered the game with a 17-3-5 record this season when leading after the first period. If the Bruins were going to tie the game up they needed to apply some pressure to Enroth early on. It seemed like the ice was tilted in Buffalo’s favor as the Sabres came out and applied the pressure but the Bruins seemed to wake up halfway through the period and started to fire the rubber on Enroth. Tyler Seguin had the best chance to tie the game up when he received a Joe Corvo pass and skated in alone on Enroth, who made a huge save to keep the game 1-0 in Buffalo’s favor. It looked like nothing was going to get by Enroth tonight but then Bruins’ defenseman Dennis Seidenberg stepped into a shot that beat Enroth but unfortunately for the Bruins, rang the post. It looked like the Bruins were going to go into the third period still down one, but Gregory Campbell deflected a Shawn Thornton slap shot past Enroth’s glove hand to tie the game. The goal was reviewed but after a quick deliberation it was evident that Campbell’s stick was below the crossbar and the goal was good. At the end of two the teams were tied at 1-1.
The third period is where the Bruins have made their living this season, outscoring their opponents by an 84-51 margin. The Bruins would need to continue this trend if they wanted the win because Buffalo is 7-6-4 this season when tied after two, while the Bruins were only 6-7-1. The third period began with thunderous applause from the hometown crowd as they tried to motivate their team. There were some back and forth rushes by both teams but nothing too threatening until Seguin rang one off the crossbar with roughly 14 minutes remaining. After about five minutes of uneventful hockey, Johnny Boychuk scored his fourth goal of the season on a rocket of a slap shot from the point to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead. The goal seemed to light a fire under Buffalo and they came out firing but Thomas was up to the challenge, stopping a barrage of shots, including one that saw him venture extremely far out of his crease to make the save. As if feeding off of Thomas, the hottest line for the Bruins, Lucic, Seguin, and David Krejci, continued their point production as Krejci scored his 18th goal of the season with Lucic and Seguin both getting an assist. This line now has a five-game point streak. With the game winding down the Sabres pulled their goalie but weren’t able to get anything past Thomas and the Bruins walked away with a much needed win and two points.
When asked about how it felt to win consecutive games for the first time in two months Thomas replied, “I didn’t realize it had been so long. We’ve been playing each game one at a time so.” He admitted that the only reason he knew it had been a long time was because a member of the media had just said it.
The Bruins look to make it three in a row when they take on the Washington Capitals this Saturday at the TD Garden.