February 26, 2014

Bruins crumble after mounting comeback in Buffalo

By Jesse Connolly

Matt Moulson made it a 4-4 game when he scored with under a minute left in the third period. (Getty Images)

Final: Buffalo 5, Boston 4 (OT)

Recap: It took less than four minutes for the last-place Sabres to go up 1-0, as rookie Olympian Zemgus Girgensons (Latvia) beat Chad Johnson at the 3:32 mark. At 10:47, Carl Soderberg sent a drop pass from near the right post to an open Chris Kelly, who roofed it glove side over Jhonas Enroth to tie the game at 1-1.

Buffalo appeared to take control in the second after a power-play goal by Tyler Myers made it 2-1, followed by a weak shot from the slot by Brian Flynn (Lynnfield, Mass.) finding its way past Johnson to make it 3-1. But the Bruins woke up after falling behind by two. A Zdeno Chara strike from close range on the man advantage cut the lead in half, then Reilly Smith took the puck away from John Scott and fed it to an open Brad Marchand for the tying tally with 2:14 to go in the middle frame.

After a fairly evenly-played first half of the third period, the B's got Enroth and the Sabres scrambling, leading to a pass from behind the net out front to an open Milan Lucic who, much like Kelly, lasered a shot over Enroth's glove. Trailing 4-3, the Sabres comeback effort was literally nonexistant until Matt Moulson tied the game with 53 seconds left in regulation.

In overtime, a Loui Eriksson turnover led to Matt D'Agostini getting in alone on Johnson. He banged home a backhander to give Buffalo the bonus point.

Records: Buffalo (17-34-8, 42 points); Boston (37-16-5, 79 points)

Key Play of the Game: The Sabres had two shots in the final 12:11 of play in the game. The first was Moulson's tying tally. The second was D'Agostini's game-winner. Woof!

Connolly's Commendations: Shy of the costly giveaway in the extra session, Loui Eriksson appeared to use the Olympics as a springboard into the final stretch of the season. The Swedish winger tied for the team lead with five shots on goal. As for his linemates, Kelly was flying faster than he has in quite some time, and Soderberg -- despite taking a foolish tripping penalty in the offensive zone -- made a lot of slick plays.

Hard to find fault with the second line's showing, either. Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith produced one of Boston's four goals and combined for five shots. They weren't on the ice for any of Buffalo's tallies.

Connolly's Critiques: It's hard to quantify just how poorly Johnson played tonight. Actually, it's pretty easy when you think about it. He definitely should've stopped at least three of Buffalo's goals, so it was almost expected that the game would end on an eye-roll worthy moment once the game advanced to overtime. His five-game winning streak certainly came to a screeching halt.

Lucic finished minus-3, but he did have a goal and an assist and was quite active in the offensive zone and thus gets a reprieve. His linemates, Jarome Iginla and David Krejci, were also minus-3, but neither had a shot on goal or any impact down Enroth's end.

Notes: Buffalo was without co-leading scorer Tyler Ennis (soreness). ... Johnny Boychuk appeared in his 300th NHL game. ... Johnson hadn't lost since Dec. 28. ... Enroth had lost his last 14 starts.

Final Thoughts: Losing to the worst, lowest-scoring team in the NHL is bad no matter how you slice it. The Bruins were dominant, bored and rusty at various points throughout this game. This, ultimately, was the result they deserved for an uneven, flawed effort against an opponent they clearly could've beaten up on if they had better focus.

Next: The Bruins will host the Caps in a matinee Saturday at TD Garden.

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ
Email: jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com