Bruins let one slip away against Sabres
The Bruins lived the sweet life for much of Saturday night, rolling up four goals and a 4-1 lead by midway through the second period, all but sticking a bright red ribbon smack on their second straight win behind the strength of a pair of goals each from David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand.
And then the sweet life turned sour.
Paced by a pair of third-period goals from ex-Bruin Benoit Pouliot and Evander Kane (his with 2:08 remaining in regulation), the Sabres eventually sent the Bruins skittering out of their own building when Ryan O’Reilly scored at 2:59 of overtime to hand the Sabres a 5-4 win before a stunned-silent sellout crowd of 17,565 on Causeway Street.
O’Reilly’s goal, a doorstep backhander, went to video review, only to have the strike deemed valid when officials ruled that Boston defenseman Torey Krug had pushed Buffalo defender Rasmus Ristolainen into Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin. The goal was good. The night was over. Instead of two points, the Bruins were left with one.
“I didn’t have a chance to even move,” said Khuobin, who faced 42 shots, including six in OT when the Bruins didn’t manage one. “They say our guy hit [Ristolainen], or whatever.”
Overall, the Bruins weren’t complaining about the winner. Their sharper, more critical focus was what happened after they built what appeared to be the insurmountable 4-1 lead midway through the second, capped by Pastrnak’s second of the night.
At that point, the Sabres were reeling, being outshot, 20-13. Little did the full house realize that it sounded the return for the Western New Yorkers, who then outshot the Bruins, 29-11, over the remainder of the night, and collected the final four goals.
“It was great until we scored four goals,” said Khudobin, filling in for a second night for the concussed Tuukka Rask. “After that, I think we thought it was an easy game.”
The Bruins also were without roster regulars David Krejci and Ryan Spooner at forward and Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller on the backline. As the night wore on, the absences of Miller and McQuaid became painfully obvious.
“In those instances,” said coach Bruce Cassidy, noting how the two veterans can smooth out helter-skelter moments, of which there were many late in the game, “they are money . . . they get it done.”
Jason Pominville and Jack Eichel, favorite son of North Chelmsford, scored for the Sabres to cut the lead to 4-2 through 40 minutes. Pouliot then nailed in a slapper at 6:55 of the third to trim the Boston lead to 4-3, followed late by the Kane equalizer.
Rookie blueliner Charlie McAvoy had two assists and now is averaging a point per game (1-6—7) through the first two-plus weeks of the season.
The Bruins looked well on their way to bagging their second straight win by late in the first period, after the strikes by Pastrnak (5) and Marchand (5), the first at even strength and the second on the power play.
Pastrnak, thus far living up to his new contact (6 years/$40 million) chipped home the 1-0 lead at 13:16 after Tim Schaller (in for the injured Krejci), gloved a puck near the left post, dropped it, and swatted a first attempt at goalie Robin Lehner. With the puck loose, Pastrnak reached in for the easy chip.
Less than two minutes later, at 15:05, Marchand was left with a gift in front after Johan Larsson won a faceoff in the circle to Lehner’s right. The puck came back to defenseman Marco Scandella, who handled it like a grenade, leaving the opportunistic Marchand to swoop in for the backhand bunny. Boston, 2-0. The goal came only two seconds after defenseman Matt Tennyson had been whistled off for an interference infraction.
Marchand and Pastrnak each scored again in the second, bumping the Boston lead to 4-1 by the 11:22 mark before Eichel finally banged one home to pull the Sabres within 4-2 by the second intermission.
Marchand’s second of the night, with only 0:37 gone in the middle period, came off a drop pass off the rush by Anders Bjork. The Li’l Ball o’Hate, left wide open at the top of the right wing circle, snapped home his sixth of the season on the short side for the 3-0 lead.
Pominville, back for a second tour with the Sabres, finally broke the Boston run with 8:01 gone, after O’Reilly forced Schaller into a mistake in Boston’s end. With the puck knocked off Schaller’s stick, Pominville was left to make the snipe from the right wing dot.
Khudobin needed to make a good stop at 9:36, Kane ripping off a sharp wrister, which maintained Boston’s 3-1 lead. And with 11:22 gone, Pastrnak was back for his second of the night. The speedy Czech winger snapped off a 30-foot wrister thatricocheted by Lehner off the skate of Tennyson.
Eichel connected for the final goal in the period, moving to the front of the net after dishing a puck up high to Scandella. The puck free of Scandella’s long wrister, Eichel pounced and potted — for his fourth goal this season to cut it to 4-2.
“Very disappointing,” said Pastrnak. “We didn’t play our game in the third period. They were all over us. It’s on us. We were the ones that gave them that point. We might have been a little bit too scared to play . . . just swept the puck away, didn’t make any plays. We should have just kept going like we did in the first two periods.”