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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bruins Beat Sabres 2-1 in Overtime Thanks to Brad Marchand's Penalty Shot

One of my favorite parts about sports is the unpredictable nature of them, meaning that you never know exactly what you're going to see in a given game at any time. For a franchise that has been around for as long as the Bruins (since 1924), you know it has to be something pretty special when they complete any kind of first in team history. Tonight, the B's (28-18-6) held off the Sabres (21-26-6) 2-1 in overtime at TD Garden as Brad Marchand won it with a goal off a penalty shot. Before that, Boston had never won an overtime game as a result of a successful penalty shot.

Don't let that last part fool you, most of the contest was rather dull despite a high shot total (38 for both clubs) but at least the Bruins found a way to sweep the home-and-home with lowly Buffalo while also closing the season-series at a respectable 3-1-0 mark. The win vaulted Boston into a fourth-place tie with Tampa Bay (the Lightning have the edge on them since they have played one fewer game). Boston is one point behind the Rangers and two points ahead of Detroit in the very jumbled Eastern Conference.

This was the 12th time this season that the B's have gone to overtime (they improved to 2-5 in it) and ninth time for the Sabres (2-2 in OT). If it feels like Boston has been in many one-goal games lately, they have since four of their last six have required an extra frame. The penalty shot came about since Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen was called for hooking Marchand who had a clear path to goaltender Robin Lehner (36 saves; 2-3-1) on a breakaway at 2:32. As you'd expect, the Sabres didn't agree with the call but Marchand made it a moot point with a sweet move from his forehand to his backhand before he roofed it for his team-leading 24th goal of the season. He is still red hot with four goals in his last three straight games and 10 points overall (9 goals, 1 assists) in his last 10.

The Bruins took a 1-0 lead at 12:22 of the first period on a pretty shot fake by David Pastrnak led to an easy tap-in for Loui Eriksson. David Krejci started the play by forcing a turnover in Buffalo's defensive zone. Eriksson's 16th goal of the season was his first since January 13 at Philadelphia (9 games ago). Pastrnak picked up his seventh assist of the season while Krejci's 27th assist (1 goal, 5 assists in his last 6 games) tied him with Ryan Spooner for the team lead.

As usual, the Sabres aren't going anywhere this season but I will say that for once they have plenty of hope for the near future. One of their many talented youngsters-Sam Reinhart-tied it at 10:53 of the second period when he backhanded in a rebound from Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (37 saves; 19-15-5). Jamie McGinn and Ryan O'Reilly had the assists on Reinhart's 14th goal of the season.

Boston's No. 2 ranked power play has slowed down significantly in the last few weeks but at the same time (and much to head coach Claude Julien's delight), their penalty kill has risen to No. 4 in the NHL. Indeed, this evening the Bruins' power play was 0 for 2 but the penalty kill was 3 for 3 so there is that. The Bruins improved to 12-13-3 at the Garden this season and they can finally reach .500 for the first time at home when they host Milan Lucic and the Kings (31-17-3) on Tuesday (7, NESN). It's a big game for Boston because after that, they leave on a season-long six-game road trip. They have been a great road team in 2015-16 (16-5-3) but they have to continue to accumulate points on their home ice in order to reach the postseason.

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