Sabres Utterly Collapse in 7-1 Loss to Top-Billed Bruins
It started off alright, but ended badly.... very badly.
Score: Sabres - 1 | Bruins - 7
Shots: BUF - 27 | BOS - 42
Buffalo Sabres Goals: Casey Mittelstadt (10)
Boston Bruins Goals: Dmitry Orlov (6-PP), Jakub Lauko (2,3), Pavel Zacha (16), David Pastrnak (43-EN), Patrice Bergeron (22-SH/EN), Connor Clifton (5-EN)
Plus-1: The Save of H1S Life
Before we get to the negatives of the night, I’d be remiss if I recapped tonight’s game without mentioning this absolutely spectacular sequence of saves from Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Just over two minutes into the second period, UPL went down into a split to rob David Pastrnak on one side of the net, then quickly slid to the other post to stop the rebound attempt.
Truly a thing of beauty - and arguably the best thing to come out of Thursday’s game for the Sabres. (UPL was also Buffalo’s best penalty-killer at other points of the night, too.)
UPL 🤯 pic.twitter.com/xvHc1SOLsP— The Charging Buffalo (@TheChargingBUF) March 3, 2023
Minus-1: A Bad Penalty Starts the Breakdown
As good as the Bruins are, the Sabres were able to hold them off for more than half of the game. Unfortunately, it all came tumbling down once UPL was handed a bad penalty with 9:25 left in the second period. The refs called UPL for the minor penalty when Pastrnak tripped over him as he went to make a save - you know, that thing goalies do.
The Bruins, of course, made no mistake on the resulting power play as Dmitry Orlov opened the scoring. Less than a minute and a half later, Boston took a two-goal lead. Though the Sabres were able to hold off the Bruins for the rest of the second period, they struggled and were outshot 16-7 in the middle frame before heading into the final period down a pair.
Minus-1: From Bad to Worse
After Pavel Zacha made it 3-0 at the 8:35 mark of the third period, the Sabres’ chances of a comeback dwindled more and more. Don Granato, with the ever-curious choices of when to pull the goaltender, yanked UPL for the extra attacker with over 5:15 left in regulation. (Remember, the Sabres were down by three at this point.)
The absolute collapse ramped up from that point, as Pastrnak quickly made it a four-goal game. Although Casey Mittelstadt would finally get Buffalo on the board, the Bruins went on to add three more goals - two of which came on the empty net. Their final tally came with 52 seconds left in regulation.
They simply stopped playing for the last five minutes, and the game really got out of control. What started as a fairly close game ended up incredibly tilted in the Bruins’ favor, as they became the first team to hit 100 points this season.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: this was a bad game for the Sabres, an utter collapse, particularly in the final minutes. They tried to hang with the NHL’s best team, and they did - for a while. And then they didn’t, at all - and it was painful.
The Sabres’ top offensive billings - Cozens, Mittlestadt, Skinner and Thompson - were all a minus-3 on the night. Newcomer Riley Stillman made his Buffalo debut and was a minus-1 with 18:24 and a team-leading six hits. Meanwhile, twelve different Bruins players registered at least a point, led by Orlov and Pastrnak with three points each.
UPL was credited with 35 saves, but his team ultimately quit on him.
It’s not going to get any easier, as the Sabres next host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday for a 12:30 pm matinee - the start of a three-in-four stretch.
Obviously, all eyes for the next little bit will be on the impending trade deadline, which comes at 3 p.m. Friday. Will GM Kevyn Adams pull off any additional moves to help bolster this team as they fight for playoff contention?
And - when will we see Rasmus Dahlin back? Fingers crossed for Buffalo’s sake that it’s sooner rather than later.