BUFFALO – The Bruins sounded a determined tone to work through their struggles, and grit their way out of a March slump that’s gone on for far too long.
Perhaps April will bring better luck and better efforts for the Black and Gold, but they managed to limp out of the month with a narrow 2-0 victory over the woebegone Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center. David Krejci and Nathan Horton powered the offense in the final 10 minutes of the third period to allow the Bruins to salvage the weekend with two points after getting nothing against the Flyers on Saturday.
Perhaps the Bruins thought it would be a cakewalk against a Sabres club whose general manager made it known anybody on their roster is potentially available in a trade because they’ve underwhelmed so fully this season. But Buffalo didn’t lay down and it turned into a scoreless game going into the final period.
It was a little toughness in front of the net that keyed the breakthrough for Boston in the third period. Ryan Miller stopped a pair of Nathan Horton shots in front of the net, but David Krejci was there to pop in the rebound for his eight goal of the season. The Krejci strike allowed Boston to escape with two points after more than 50 minutes of constipated hockey that featured another missed open net, this time by former 30-goal scorer Milan Lucic. Krejci also set up Horton’s score just minutes later when he threw a puck at the net from the right circle, and the right winger redirected it while camped in front.
The Sabres had their chances in the game as well, but Anton Khudobin was spectacular in stopping all 25 shots he faced for his seventh win of the season – and second against the Sabres. His first period leg pad save on Tyler Ennis was a thing of beauty and kept Boston in the game until their offense could finally get untracked.
GOLD STAR: Anton Khudobin made 26 saves for his second shutout of the season, and his second win in three tries against the Buffalo Sabres this season. It was the timely saves early in the game, however, that set things up for the Bruins to snag a win in the third period against a Buffalo team waiting for tee times. The Sabres walloped the Bruins right off the bat with a scoring chance on the first shift of the game, and Khudobin executed a nifty pad save on a partial Tyler Ennis breakaway later in the period. Those saves kept Boston from falling behind early, and bought them some time until they finally uncovered their offense in the third period.
BLACK EYE: Andrej Sekera was on ice for both of Buffalo’s goals and really didn’t have any other bearing on the game despite playing 20:44 of ice time in defeat. It came down to lost battles in front of the net for both of Boston’s goals as Buffalo couldn’t clear two separate rebounds of a Nathan Horton shot, and David Krejci finally buried the third effort. Than Horton won a battle in front to redirect a Krejci saucer pass from the far edge of the left circle, and the Bruins had themselves a two point victory to keep pace with everybody else.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins finally managed their first shot of the third period seven minutes into the final frame, but that Brad Marchand/Patrice Bergeron/Tyler Seguin shift featured energy and good chances. There was a palpable sense of energy and drive that started building with that shift and ultimately led to the breakthrough for David Krejci and his forward group. As much as the Bruins would like balanced scoring and rolling lines, it’s going to be up to the top six forwards to do the bulk of the offensive work. They were up to it in the third period after getting out of the neutral gear many of them were stuck in for the first 40 minutes.
HONORABLE MENTION: David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic supplied all the offense that the Bruins would need in the final seven minutes of the third period, and showed the way by winning battles in front of the net. A long Lucic possession with the puck helped set things for David Krejci’s score that broke things open, and Krejci executed a nifty little saucer pass to Horton camped in front for their second goal as the confidence started soaring. After absorbing plenty of criticism in Saturday’s loss to the Flyers, all three forwards excelled when it mattered most in the third period.
BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the assist on David Krejci’s game-winner was Matt Bartkowski’s first career NHL point in his 12th game for the Bruins, and gives him the lead on Jarome Iginla in their very serious one-on-one scoring battle since the trade fell through.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “It was better. If we’re going to call it a step forward then we’ll probably see more if it in the next game. But it was a better effort tonight. The speed of our game was much better than it’s been in a long time.” –Claude Julien, who saw progress in the 2-0 win over the Sabres that snapped a two game losing streak.