Final: Boston 4, Buffalo 3 (SO)
Recap: After Milan Lucic took care of business with a fight against Paul Gaustad (to avenge Ryan Miller, duh), with the Bruins winger laying a beat-down on the Sabres forward, Buffalo took advantage of multiple iffy penalty calls on Boston. Buffalo struck twice on the power play with goals from Christian Ehrhoff and Thomas Vanek to take a 2-0 lead into the middle frame.
Tyler Seguin got the B’s on the board early in the second, but T.J. Brennan buried his first NHL goal midway through the period to make it 2-1. With 4:00 left to go in the frame, Brad Marchand’s seventh goal of the season made it 3-2.
Just 3:35 into the third it was a tied ballgame. A Zdeno Chara slapper screamed by Enroth on the power play, knotting things up at 3-3. The two teams remained scoreless through overtime and it was on to the shootout. In the fifth round, Benoit Pouliot scored the only goal, roofing one over Enroth to give the Bruins their tenth straight victory.
Records: Boston 13-7-0, 26 points; Buffalo 12-8-1, 25 points
Key Play of the Game: With Buffalo on a 4-on-3 power play in overtime, Christian Ehrhoff made a great diving play to keep the puck in the zone. It eventually led to an open shot in the slot for Derek Roy, but the Bruins netminder stood tall and a quick-reflexes stop to keep the Sabres from burying the game winner.
After nine-straight shooters were denied, mostly from close range, Benoit Pouliot worked his way right down the middle and simply ripped one over Enroth from the top of the circles for the winning tally in the shootout.
Connolly’s Commendations: Big props to Zdeno Chara, as the captain’s stellar start to the year continued. Big Z buried the tying tally in the third, blocked a game-high three shots and pummeled Robyn Regehr during a bout in the opening frame.
Rich Peverley only finished with one shot, but the winger created plenty of opportunities for his line by utilizing his speed from start to finish. No. 49 had an assist and also rocked it at the dot, winning 10-of-14 (71%) faceoffs.
Tim Thomas might’ve been under siege early, but the Bruins netminder brought it when it mattered most. The two-time Vezina winner stopped all five shots he faced in the shootout, a pretty impressive feat given the number of crafty forwards in Buffalo’s arsenal.
Connolly’s Critiques: Tough to really peg any one player for struggling in this one. The only letdown came from Boston’s PK in this one after an impressive showing against the Habs on Monday night. Though the penalties weren’t exactly good calls, the B’s still allowed two strikes on the man advantage in less than four minutes time, putting themselves in an early two-goal hole.
Notes: Former Bruin Brad Boyes suffered a lower-body injury early in the contest and did not return. Milan Lucic picked up an assist but was one of just two forwards without a shot on goal (Greg Campbell being the other). Thomas’ shutout streak came to an end at 145 minutes.
Final thoughts: With a playoff-like feel from the drop of the puck until Pouliot lit the lamp in the shootout, tonight’s tilt was easily the most entertaining game for the Black and Gold in 2011-12. From the wave of fisticuffs in the opening period to the frantic finish, the B’s were engaged in an absolute thriller and undoubtedly left the revenge-seeking Sabres feeling stung.
Next: Following Turkey Day, the Bruins will return to action on Friday afternoon when they square off with the Red Wings at TD Garden at 1 o’clock.