February 15, 2013

Postgame Breakdown: Buffalo comeback sinks Bruins

By Ty Anderson

Final: Buffalo 4, Boston 2

Recap: While the Boston Bruins’ three-goal comeback ultimately ended in disappointment thanks to a Ryan Callahan shootout winner on Tuesday, the confidence of a Bruins club that’s taken 18 of a possible 22 points this year has been evident, and was expected to be on full display in their third meeting of the season with the Northeast rival Buffalo Sabres.

Turning to backup goaltender Anton Khudobin for his second start in three games, and on the heels of Khudobin’s 25-save victory on Buffalo ice this past Sunday, a rematch was presented to the fans at First Niagara Center with the Sabres turning to the 32-year-old Ryan Miller for the fifth straight contest.

Despite beginning the game pinned in their own zone for the opening minute plus, and for a Sabres squad in dire need of secondary scoring, a Boston turnover met Buffalo desperation, and was capped by the first goal of the season for winger Drew Stafford.

Yet, as Stafford giveth to an anemic Buffalo attack, a Stafford tripping call proved to taketh away.

Putting the league’s worst power-play unit to work, a Tyler Seguin to David Krejci pass set the stage for a dish back to Dougie Hamilton, who wasted no time in blasting the first goal of his National Hockey League career by the Sabres’ netminder. 

As the period came to a close with these heated foes knotted up at 1-1, the stalemate wouldn’t last long, as a Hamilton drive off the Sabres’ endboards found its way to the stick of the 30-year-old Rich Peverley, who put it by Miller for just his second goal of the season. 

Giving the Bruins a 2-1 edge in a second period that was all Boston, a chorus of boos led the embattled Sabres to the locker room, and may have proved to be the difference maker in a third period that was pure domination for the home club. Striking with a Tyler Myers equalizer, the Sabres took the lead behind a Christian Ehrhoff wrister, and found insurance in a Cody Hodgson put away goal nearly 12 minutes into the third.

Ultimately enough for the Michigan-born Miller, who finished the night with 30 saves, the Sabres put an end to their two-game slide, and gave Boston just their second regulation loss of the season.

Records: Boston Bruins 8-2-2, 18 points; Buffalo Sabres 6-8-1, 13 points

Key Play of the Game: The victim of harsh criticisms, boos, and even benchings from Buffalo bench boss Lindy Ruff, the 6-foot-8 Tyler Myers would have been more than accepted by the home crowd if he called it a night following his game-tying tally in the third period. But with a fire lit underneath his skates, the 23-year-old Myers came through and provided the nail in the Bruins’ coffin with a rush into the attacking zone that saw him make the flat-footed B’s defense look silly before dishing it off to Hodgson for the Sabres’ fourth goal of the night, giving them a two-goal edge with less than ten minutes to play.

Anderson’s Commendations: In Boston, the power-play has been an unmitigated disaster for years, but if there’s one positive to take from the Bruins’ 1-for-2 mark on the man-advantage tonight, it’s that its success came off the stick of the 19-year-old Dougie Hamilton. Playing in front of friends and family, and skating 30 miles from where he played his junior hockey during his tenure with the Niagara IceDogs, the 6-foot-5 blue-liner finished with what was undoubtedly the best night among all Boston d-men while putting an end to a six-game pointless skid.

Anderson’s Critiques: There’s honestly no other way to say it so let’s just throw it out there -- The third period was undoubtedly the worst of the Bruins’ season. Need some proof? In the third period, the B’s had as many shots (three) as the Sabres had goals. In a third period that saw Khudobin constantly on the defense, the Black-and-Gold’s skaters simply weren’t at their best, evident by a combined minus-6 on the night for the top line of Milan Lucic, David Krejci, and Nathan Horton.

Notes: With his power-play tally tonight, Dougie Hamilton became the first 19-year-old B’s defensemen to score a goal since Jonathan Girard accomplished the feat back in Nov. 1999. In 12 games this year, the Boston Bruins have allowed just eight goals in the third period, which is great by league standards, but shocking when you see that seven of those eight goals surrendered have been at the hands of the Sabres. Following his 30-save victory, Ryan Miller has moved into a tie with the Devils’ Marty Brodeur for most wins against the Bruins by active goaltenders, with 24.

Final Thoughts: In a 48-game season, these games are going to happen, and there’s really nothing you can do about it except move on and get ready for the next one. However, what’s sure to keep Boston skaters up tonight is the fact that they dominated the first forty minutes to such an insane degree that there’s almost no way that this should’ve been a one-goal game heading into the third, something that proved to doom ‘em.

Next: Following the first leg of their five-game road swing, the Bruins will head to Winnipeg for a Sunday night battle with the Winnipeg Jets. The Bruins defeated the Jets back in Boston in their last matchup, a 2-1 shootout win, back on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Twitter: @_TyAnderson