BOSTON -- The Bruins aren’t doing anything flashy amid a lot of missing bodies from their lineup, and they’re certainly not blowing other teams out.
But they took care of business against the Buffalo Sabres with a 4-1 victory, and pumped up their home record to 12-0-2 in the last 14 games while going nearly two months without a loss on the TD Garden ice.
The David Krejci/Milan Lucic/Jarome Iginla line provided the game-winning and insurance goals for the Black and Gold with Krejci notching his 7th goal of the season in the second period for the game-winner.
Then Krejci found Lucic in the slot for his team-leading 12th goal of the season in the third period that launched the game out of reach. It was a quick turn of events for the Bruins: Brad Marchand turnover off the D-zone boards had forced Tuukka Rask into a kick save on Matt Ellis in all alone that could have been a game-tying goal in the third.
Instead Rask kicked it away, and Lucic smoked a shot past Jhonas Enroth for the insurance strike.
The Bruins opened up the scoring in the first period on a power play strike. Carl Soderberg found Reilly Smith crashing on the backdoor, and Smith flipped it past Enroth to open things up for the Black and Gold.
The B’s did allow Zemgus Girgensons to score with just 1:06 remaining in the first period to keep Buffalo in the game, but Boston essentially controlled the final two periods of the game.
Reilly Smith outraced a couple of Buffalo defenders to flip in the empty netter for his second goal of the game in the closing seconds.
Rask had 34 saves in a solid performance between the pipes that got him his first win against the Sabres in his last seven tries.
GOLD STAR: David Krejci is back to his elite self after shaking off whatever cobwebs slowed him down during the month of November, and potted the game-winning goal for the Bruins in the second period. He also won 11-of-21 face-offs, clocked in a team-high 20:13 among the forwards and generated five shot attempts throughout a game his line dominated in the second and third period. Krejci has 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) during nine games in the month of December, and has really stepped up with so many other players out due to injuries. It was doubly important tonight with Patrice Bergeron off the ice for seven minutes in penalties, and a heavier burden on his line.
BLACK EYE: Steve Ott finished with a minus-2, a slashing penalty on a bad call when Zdeno Chara broke his own stick slashing down on the Buffalo pest, and got worked by the Boston centers to the tune of a 3-for-15 face-off night. It’s difficult to rationalize how Ott didn’t completely lose his mind on the slashing call that wiped out a 5-on-3 advantage in the third period for Buffalo, but it’s certainly been one of those years for the Sabres. He tried to go toe-to-toe with Zdeno Chara in the third period after attempting to trip the B’s captain, and traded cross-checks with the 6-foot-9 defenseman until the refs stepped in between them. He’s either courageous, or ridiculously dumb. Or maybe both, but whatever he is Saturday night was a disaster for him.
TURNING POINT: It looked bleak for the Bruins in the second period when they were clinging to a 2-1 lead, and the Sabres had nearly a two minute 5-on-3 advantage with both Patrice Bergeron and Gregory Campbell in the penalty box. They also had close to an additional two minutes of power play time based on the double minor for Campbell after the two man advantage was killed. But the Bruins held strong against a pitiful Buffalo power play attack, and had only one close call on a Tyler Ennis post. Otherwise they snuffed out the long man advantage for the Sabres, and quelled their best chance to get back into the game before Boston clinched it in the third period.
HONORABLE MENTION: Tuukka Rask made 34 saves in the win and snapped a streak of six games without a win against the Buffalo Sabres. Rask saved some of his best stuff for the third period when he bailed out a Brad Marchand turnover by making a beautiful kick save on Matt Ellis. He smothered the follow-up shot as well, and made 14 saves in all over the final 20 minutes while protecting the lead until a Reilly Smith empty netter gave them three goals worth of breathing room.
BY THE NUMBERS: 0-for-6 – the Buffalo power play couldn’t get anything going against a Bruins penalty kill that’s once again among the NHL’s top five in stopping other team’s power play units cold.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “Just trying to keep the ball rolling. As soon as you take your foot off the pedal, your whole game goes in a negative direction. So [I’m] just focusing on my overall game because defensive [play] is probably the biggest factor for our team.” –Reilly Smith, who has a pair of two goal games in his last four games amid a hot streak with the Bruins.