Despite trailing three separate times, the Buffalo Sabres rallied to draw even with the Boston Bruins with 28 seconds remaining in the third period, eventually winning a wild one in Buffalo, 7-6, in a shootout.
Sabres forward Drew Stafford earned his second hat trick in eight games, both coming against the Bruins. His third goal came with Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller pulled for an extra attacker, as he fluttered a backhander past Tim Thomas to send the game to overtime.
“When we tied it up late there, we knew we had a great chance,” Stafford said. “I’ve been getting some lucky breaks. I’ve been going to the net, trying to make sure I’m in front to find loose change, and I’ve been getting some good shots.”
Lucky breaks? If that’s what he wants to call it, so be it, but other people call it talent. He’s there, he finds that “loose change” and he takes advantage of the great opportunities he and his teammates make for themselves. With Derek Roy likely out for the rest of the regular season, Buffalo needs Stafford to be on top of his game and play exactly how he did on Saturday.
Stafford wasn’t the only Sabre to have multiple-point nights. Jason Pominville tallied two goals and two assists, while Thomas Vanek also earned a goal and assist.
The Sabres took a 5-4 lead into the third period, but two goals by the Bruins forced Stafford’s heroics.
The first period saw seven goals, four by Boston and three by Buffalo. Both teams struck quickly. At 1:29, Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference blasted one past Miller right from the point. Less than a minute later, Vanek sent the puck to Pominville, who backhanded it past Bruins starting goaltender Tuukka Rask (who was pulled after the first period) to tie the game, 1-1
Boston regained the lead when Dennis Seidenberg’s shot from the far side bounced off Sabre Rob Niedermayer and past Miller. At the 5:36 mark, the Bruins gained a two-goal advantage when Brad Marchand took a shot from the point that was deflected by Buffalo’s defense past Miller.
Vanek scored his first of the night and got the Sabres back in the game a little over midway through the first after he and Tim Connolly finished a 2-on-1 to pull the Sabres within one. Shortly after Vanek’s goal, however, Chara made it 4-2 after Patrice Bergeron sent a beautiful feed to the Bruins captain for a shorthanded goal.
Chara’s goal marked the fourth Boston tally in the first 11 shots.
“There were a lot of sloppy plays,” said Pominville. “But we dug deep and found a way at the end.”
With less than a minute left in the first, Stafford’s first goal of the contest brought the Sabres back within one. After his initial shot hit the side of Rask’s net, Stafford snuck his stick in and shoved the puck over the goal line.
At 6:17 into the second stanza, Stafford scored his second goal to tie the game at 4-4.
Near the end of the middle stanza and with the Sabres on the power play, Pominville blasted one from the point through the Boston defense and past Thomas for his second tally of the evening and the Sabres went into the second intermission with a 5-4 lead.
The Sabres venture West to take on the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, January 4 at 9 p.m.