Boston’s (4-1-1) identity as a strong defensive team was nowhere to be found on Thursday as Buffalo (3-3-1) won, 7-4, at TD Garden and handed the B’s their first regulation loss of the season.
It was the Bruins’ first loss at home this season in their opening Northeast Division game. Boston actually led 3-1 late in the second period before the Sabres completely took over and owned the third period (4-1).
Thomas Vanek (3 goals, 2 assists) had his eighth career NHL hat trick for Buffalo as he continued to forge his place as a certified Bruins killer with 28 goals and 26 assists in 46 career games against Boston. His linemates Cody Hodgson (1 goals, 2 assists) and Jason Pamonville (1 goal, 2 assists) also had multiple points. Brad Marchand scored twice for Boston while Rich Peverley notched his first goal of the season. Ryan Miller made 38 saves for the win and Tuukka Rask (25 saves) wasn’t nearly as bad as his numbers suggest, his defensemen hung him out to dry all night.
It wasn’t a game that Shawn Thornton would like to remember as he got pummeled in a fight with gigantic (6-foot-8) Sabres goon John Scott. Thornton appeared woozy when he went to the penalty box and he didn’t return for the rest of the game after that. There were no goals in the first period but that quickly changed as both teams scored three goals in the second period. Vanek opening the scoring on a one-timer from Hodgson but then Peverley answered with a snipe off the post and in. Marchand scored his pair in the span of 3:11 to give the Bruins a 3-1 lead. Buffalo cut it to 3-2 with a power-play goal on a 5-on-3 advantage then Ennis tied it thanks to a spectacular diving pass from Vanek.
David Krejci scored Boston’s last goal on a beautiful move early in the third period. The Bruins were up 4-3 but they soon folded as Alexander Sulzer shot from the point snuck by Rask to tie it at four. Hodgson’s one-timer from Vanek handed Buffalo their first lead since 1-0 then Vanek completed his hat trick. Jason Pominville added an empty-netter for good measure.
The B’s don’t play another game at home until next Saturday. They have two more Northeast Division games as they travel to Toronto (4-3-0) on Saturday (7 p.m., NESN) then Montreal on Wednesday. Three games in nine days is their quietest stretch of the regular season.