Rare is the opportunity for a set of Buffalo teams to sweep Boston clubs on a weekend, but after a convincing 5-0 win against the Boston Pride, the Beauts’ brethren took on the Bruins in Beantown in a pivotal midseason matchup.
Tied with 50 points, Boston held the slightest of margins over the Sabres in the Atlantic standings. The game’s story really is a reflection of two teams in very different parts of the season thus far. Boston has been steadily climbing the ranks, while Buffalo has been treading water for the better part of a month, since following a ten-game winning streak with a five game slide.
The first period was a physical battle, with neither team shying away from contact. The highlight of the period may have been a scrum in front of the Boston net when Zdano Chara and Rasmus Ristolainen exchanged shoves.
The Bruins struck first just over halfway through the first period. A misplayed puck ended up on the stick of Chris Wagner and he made no mistake, beating a lone Linus Ullmark. The Bruins held the advantage on the scoreboard and in shots heading into the locker room for the first intermission.
Boston did not relent in the second. Two minutes in, David Backes netted his fourth goal of the season, and Boston outplayed Buffalo for most of the second period. The Sabres struggled to escape their own zone, and the limited chances they had on Tuukka Rask were rarely dangerous.
The Sabres didn’t fare much better in the third period. There were flashes of possession, but for the most part, Boston controlled play much in the way a team with a 2-0 lead would. They simplified their game and did their best to limit mistakes. Buffalo managed to avoid a shutout when Rasmus Ristolainen scored his fifth of the season, appropriately unassisted. In the end, the Sabres were outshot 41-32, and the Bruins had the better quality chances. Ullmark takes the loss, but played a solid game, finishing with a .951 save percentage, despite allowing two goals against.
The lackluster performance was reminiscent of years past, when Buffalo was simply outclassed on the ice. The Bruins played much like a team that could be a serious playoff contender. The Sabres resembled a young team continuing to work through some growing pains. Buffalo’s youthful energy has appeared to wane as the team surpasses the halfway mark of the season. The team is certainly missing its captain, but its lack of success with Jack Eichel out of the lineup says a lot about where the team is at right now in comparison to the teams surrounding them in the standings.
Final: Bruins 2, Sabres 1
Shots on goal Bruins 41 | Sabres 32
Sabres goal: Rasmus Ristolainen (1)
Bruins goals: Chris Wagner (1), David Backes (1)
Three stars of the game
- David Backes (GWG)
- Tukkaa Rask (31 saves on 32 shots)
- Linus Ullmark (39 saves on 41 shots)