Bruins rebound, take down Sabres
After Thursday’s 4-2 hiccup in Buffalo, the Bruins (24-10-2) restored some order in the NHL universe Saturday at TD Garden as they beat the Sabres (9-24-3), 4-1. Boston has won its last seven games in a row and they’ve recorded a point in their last 14 games (12-0-2) at home. Reilly Smith scored two goals, Tuukka Rask made 34 saves and Patrice Bergeron got into the first regular season fight of his NHL career.
“We’ve been a good team at home this season (15-3-2),” said Bruins left wing Milan Lucic. “We want to make it a tough building to play in but we also have to get better on the road (9-7-0) to get points and move up in the standings.”
With injuries, the Bruins had to switch up their power play units hence why Smith’s first goal was assisted by Carl Soderberg and Ryan Spooner. The great passing sequence ended with Smith one-timing Soderberg’s pass by Jhonas Enroth (35 saves). Buffalo’s lone goal came on a fluky play as Zemgus Girgensons banked the puck off Rask’s back and into the net late in the first period.
David Krejci made it 2-1 early in the second period after a nice feed from linemate Jarome Iginla-who also had Lucic barreling toward the net. Later in the frame, mild-mannered Bergeron dropped the gloves with hulking Tyler Myers who is listed at 6-foot-8 (a mere 6 inches taller than Bergeron). The only other times Bergeron had fought in the NHL were last postseason vs. Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh) and 2009 vs. Josh Gorges (Montreal).
Lucic put it out of reach with a one-timer from Krejci in the third period and Smith polished it off with an empty-netter. This was Boston’s final home game before Christmas and they are in Nashville (16-16-4) on Monday (8, NESN) for the last contest before a three-day break around the league (Dec. 24-26).
What they’ll be saying: Boston’s penalty kill was outstanding, holding Buffalo scoreless despite six power play opportunities. What’s more, the Bruins killed off a two-man advantage the Sabres had for 1:49 in the second period when Boston led 2-1. It was Chad Johnson vs. Ryan Miller on Thursday which was a mismatch and tonight it was more of the same with Rask taking on Enroth. There have been three games between these teams so far this season (with three more on the way) but thus far, Miller and Rask haven’t appeared in the same game. Since the next one isn’t until February 26 (first game back from the Olympics), maybe they’ll meet in Socchi first (U.S. vs. Finland). Is it too early to say that Smith has the Bruins’ 7th player award locked up in April? He’s second on the team in goals and has shown no signs of slowing down even bumped up to the second line now with more power play duties. Given his concussion history and all the injuries the Bruins are currently facing, I’m sure Boston’s front office weren’t thrilled to see Bergeron fight Myers but he hung in there. It turns out that getting cross-checked and punched in the head will anger Bergeron, who knew? The TD Garden definitely made it a memorable night for fans with a special holiday Bruins entrance video and the annual Christmas Carols sung by national anthem singer Rene Rancourt between the first and second periods. I know I’m ready for the big day now thanks to him.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate