BUFFALO — The goal was a wraparound, with 5:41 remaining in the game, the puck sneaking between the post and Chad Johnson’s pad. Drew Stafford had put the Sabres ahead of the Bruins, as Buffalo made a bid for its second win in a row.
It was not Johnson’s finest moment, not for a goaltender with a 6-1 record coming into Thursday night’s game.
“Just disappointing,” Johnson said after the Bruins’ 4-2 loss. “I don’t know what to say. It was just a really, really disappointing game is all I can really say.”
Said coach Claude Julien, “I don’t comment on individual stuff, but certainly wasn’t his best game.”
On Stafford’s wraparound, the Bruins had a defensive breakdown. But in the end, it was Johnson who shouldered the blame for the deciding goal.
“I kind of was over — guessing on the first play there,” Johnson said. “He was coming down the wing. I just was too tight there and I didn’t get over to the other side and, yeah, it’s a tough, tough goal late in the third. Tie game. Just to let it go like that, it’s again disappointing.”
The Sabres salted it away on a goal by Tyler Myers 1:20 later, his third of the season at 15:39. It gave the Sabres just their second two-game winning streak of the season, and marked the first time the nine-win club had earned two regulation wins in a row.
“Probably deserved a better fate, I guess, than what happened,” Julien said. “I thought we controlled the game pretty good, but the goaltender at that end [Ryan Miller] made some pretty big saves to keep them in the game, especially in that second period. We had lots of chances.”
Just two of those chances resulted in goals, both off the stick of Brad Marchand.
Earlier in the day, the winger had gotten a vote of confidence from general manager Peter Chiarelli, who said he was not looking to trade Marchand.
“It’s obviously nice to get one or two, but all that really matters is that we lost,” said Marchand, who added that he was unaware of Chiarelli’s comments. “I thought we had a pretty good game. We could have deserved more, but we’ve got to regroup and play better next game.”
Marchand nabbed his first of the night in the second period with his second shorthanded goal in seven days. It came at 1:50, after Brian Flynn of Lynnfield, Mass., had given the Sabres a 1-0 lead with a shorthander of his own at 16:27, taking advantage after the puck bounced past Johnny Boychuk at the blue line. It was just the Sabres’ eighth goal of the season in the first period. (To compare, the Bruins have scored 29 in the first.)
Marchand scored his second just 1:14 later, an even-strength wrister from the slot off a pass from Patrice Bergeron at 3:04 of the second, giving the Bruins the lead. It was Marchand’s seventh goal of the season.
“I think he was close to his old self tonight, and that was nice to see,” Julien said. “Competed hard in all areas and skated better than I’ve seen him skate in a long time. He got rewarded with a couple of goals. Even he could have had a few more with a little bit of luck, but I liked his game tonight.”
Marchand agreed that he could have had an even bigger night. “I had a really good chance early on in the third,” he said. “Bergy came around the net, and I actually thought it went in. But I made a good shot, I put it where I wanted to, but he made a great save. He’s a really good goalie. I was lucky to get two.”
It was too bad for the Bruins that he couldn’t get another. They needed it.
The one-goal lead Marchand had given them disappeared late in the second period, when a shot by Jamie McBain deflected off David Warsofsky’s stick and right to Marcus Foligno at the corner of the net. Foligno put it in to tie the game at 2-2 at 17:11.
“One of those bounces that we get in hockey,” said Warsofsky, who was making his NHL debut. “Sometimes they go your way, sometimes they don’t.”
And on Thursday, they didn’t go the way of the Bruins.
Fortunately, they get a chance to rebound on Saturday, when the Sabres come to Boston to finish the home-and-home set.
“Overall, when you look at the scoring chances we had, we should have been able to capitalize a little bit more on those with the number of them, but when you don’t, eventually the other team will take advantage of them,” Julien said. “They made the best of their scoring chances.”