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Friday, February 1, 2013

Sabres Make A Statement In Their First Game Against The Bruins This Season

After playing great hockey for almost two weeks, the Bruins were due for a serious letdown. It actually only basically occurred for half a game but it turned a 3-1 Boston (5-1-1) lead into an embarrassing 7-4 loss to Buffalo (3-3-1) tonight at TD Garden. It was the first of five meetings between the Northeast Division rivals in the regular season so the B's will have plenty of opportunities to fix their plethora of mistakes. Boston dropped their first game at home (4-1-0) while also falling in regulation for the first time in 2013.

It sounds weird saying it since Tuukka Rask (25 saves; 4-1-1) allowed six goals but he was the least of Boston's worries on this bizarre night. All their defensemen were the issue since they couldn't do anything right and allowed a million odd-man rushes for the Sabres. Thomas Vanek (3 goals, 2 assists; 8th career hat trick) along with his linemates Cody Hodgson (1 goal, 2 assists) and Tyler Ennis (1 goal, 1 assist) each had multiple points.

Brad Marchand had a pair of goals while Rich Peverley and David Krejci also scored for Boston. Ryan Miller (38 saves) survived a shaky start to earn the road win. The odds of the Bruins collectively playing this bad are long so what we should worry about more is the health of Shawn Thornton. He was sacrificed to giant John Scott in a first period "fight" that ended with Thornton getting his face pounded. He left the game and didn't return (my uneducated guess is a concussion). Let's hope I'm wrong but he seemed wobbly when he was skating to the penalty box.

After a dull first period, things really opened up in the second with both teams potting three goals apiece. Vanek started it (of course) by slamming in a one-timer from Hodgson and Jason Pominville at 1:38. Peverley (1st of the season) tied it with a snipe off the post/crossbar and in at 5:12, Daniel Paille and Chris Kelly had the assists. A little over three minutes apart, Marchand notched his goals. First, he made a great toe drag around Buffalo's defense then put a backhander behind Miller with an assist to Patrice Bergeron. Then he used a screen from birthday boy (21!) Tyler Seguin to score the other, Bergeron and Seguin had the helpers.

A 5-on-3 for Buffalo changed the momentum as Vanek cut it to 3-2 with a deft tip in from Christian Ehrhoff and Ennis at 16:46. Ennis tied it at three thanks to a nice setup from Vanek with Marcus Foligno pulling the second assist. David Krejci (2nd of the season) wrestled the lead back one more time for the B's at 1:45 of the third period. He looked like he was going to pass but he went right at Miller instead, Nathan Horton had the assist. The Sabres kicked into high gear as Alexander Sulzer scored on a shot from the point, Hodgson got a goal, Vanek completed his hat trick and Pominville added an empty-netter.

Boston would be best served to put this one behind them quickly. It was a nightmare third period but only one game after six mostly very solid contests before it. Their next two games are on the road, against other Northeast Division teams. They actually don't return to the Garden until next Saturday. Three games in nine days is the slowest stretch of their season. On Saturday night (7 p.m., NESN) they'll visit Toronto (4-3-0, 3rd in Northeast Division). It's a new year but typically the last few seasons the Bruins have owned the Maple Leafs.

UPDATE 2/1: Thornton is expected to miss 7-10 days due to a concussion. Forward Jamie Tardiff was called up from Providence to take his spot, he was leading the P Bruins in scoring (21 goals, 9 assists) and is expected to make his NHL debut tomorrow night in Toronto. Krejci and Bergeron were given maintenance days off today while Daniel Paille missed practice. Paille will remain in Boston this weekend to heal from the high stick to the face that he suffered in the third period (he never returned) last night.

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