Sabres snap B's six-game point streak, win 7-4

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Sabres snap B's six-game point streak, win 7-4

BOSTON -- The Bruins dropped their first game in regulation on Thursday night, falling 7-4 to the Buffalo Sabres.
The Bruins took a 4-3 lead just 1:45 after David Krejci pulled off a filthy toe-drag on Jordan Leopold inside the right circle as Leopold dove to the ice. Krejci pulled the puck back, got past the Sabres' defenseman, and snapped it low-left for the goal and the lead.
But the Sabres scored four unanswered goals that included an empty-netter to seal the deal on the win.
Buffalo tied it up at 4-4 just 43 seconds after Krejci's goal, as Alexander Sulzer stepped up into the high slot and ripped a one-timer past Rask.
Cody Hodgson then gave Buffalo a 5-4 lead seven minutes into the third, as he one-timed a Thomas Vanek pass past Tuukka Rask on a 2-on-1.
Vanek scored on a breakaway with 1:31 left to complete his hat trick and put the Sabres up 6-4. Then Jason Pominville put home an empty-netter to make it 7-4.
The Bruins nearly took a 3-1 lead into the third period, but the Sabres scored a pair of goals late in the second to tie the game at 3-3 entering the third.
Vanek cut Boston's lead to 3-2 with 3:14 left in the second and a minute left on a 5-on-3 Buffalo power play, when he re-directed a Christian Ehrhoff shot from the right point.
Not even two minutes later, Ennis was left wide open at the right post, caught a perfect pass through the slot from Vanek as he was falling to the ice, and put it upstairs on Rask as he tried to quickly slide post-to-post. Rask couldn't get there in time, and Ennis tied the game.
Before any of the scoring started, the Bruins lost Shawn Thornton following a fight in the game's opening minutes with 6-foot-8 forward John Scott. The fight ended with the 6-foot-2 Thornton falling to the ice. Thornton served the fighting penalty, but went straight the the dressing room afterwards, and never returned to the game.
After a scoreless first, he Sabres had taken the initial 1-0 lead 1:38 into the second period, when Vanek one-timed an absolute rocket from the top of the left circle past Rask. Like the game-tying goal, Rask had no chance, as Vanek received a pass through the slot from the opposite circle before ripping it top-shelf.
The Bruins answered by scoring three straight goals, one from Rich Peverley and two in a row from Brad Marchand, all in a span of six minutes, taking a 3-1 lead before Buffalo tied it up at the end of the period.

TALKING POINTS, written by CSNNE Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty
GOLD STAR: Thomas Vanek finished with five points (3 goals, 2 assists) and a plus-4 in 19:21 of ice time and continued his role as certified Bruins killer with 28 goals and 54 points in 46 career games against Boston. It was the second hat trick of the season for the Austrian forward and the second five-point hes put up this year, so its not just a Black and Gold thing either. As porous as the Bruins defense was on Thursday night, a huge dollop of credit must also go to a Thomas VanekJason PominvilleCody Hodgson line that dominated the Bruins from beginning to end.BLACK EYE: Zero hits and a minus-3 is not something one usually sees next to Zdeno Chara for a stat line, but thats what was sitting there after the Bruins defenseman couldnt stop the top Buffalo line. The Bruins captain was caught up ice at points and beaten to the net at other times in one of the worst performances seen from the 6-foot-9 defenseman during his time in Boston. The big career numbers for Vanek tell you that hes one forward that Chara has his share of trouble with given his combination of sizestrength and skill.TURNING POINT: It was a see-saw game that seemed to indicate the final team to score a goal would win, but then Ryan Miller came alive in the final 20 minutes to stop the goal-fest for both sides. It was still a one-goal lead for Buffalo in the third when Miller stoned Patrice Bergeron on a point blank shot in front of the net for one of his 15 saves in the final stanza. Once Miller snuffed out that last Boston scoring chance, the insurance and empty net goals started coming.HONORABLE MENTION: Brad Marchand scored a pair of goals for the Bruins in the second period and really allowed Boston to head into the final period tied up despite some defensive breakdowns. The rush through both Tyler Myers and Jordan Leopold while waiting out Miller before roofing a backhander was a thing of beauty, and the second goal was a snipe from the slot with Tyler Seguin battling with the 6-foot-7 Myers in front of the net. There was plenty to like about Marchands performance Thursday and his team-leading five goals on the season.INJURY WARD: Shawn Thornton took several stiff overhand rights to the head courtesy of 6-foot-8 monster John Scott in their first period fight, and never returned to the ice after heading straight to the dressing room from the penalty box. Claude Julien indicated hes still being evaluated. Daniel Paille is also still under evaluation after taking a high-stick to the face in the third period that sent him to the Bs dressing room for the rest of the night.BY THE NUMBERS: 17 the number of seconds left on the clock when Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff took a timeout with a three-goal lead in the third period.QUOTE TO NOTE: Our guys were defensively brain-dead. Bruins coach Claude Julien discussing the uncharacteristic defensive miscues and blown assignments that led to allowing seven Buffalo goals in the loss.

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Morning Skate: Brian Boyle embroiled in trade rumors

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while enjoying Hockey Day in America. 

*Brian Boyle is the subject of trade rumors with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he wants to stay a member of the Bolts. 

*Watch out for the Florida Panthers, who swept the road trip through California and are now back in playoff position for the first time in a long time. 

*It’s great to see play-by-play man Dave Strader back in the broadcast booth doing what he does best after his cancer diagnosis. 

*Hats off to the Bruins ECHL affiliate, the Atlanta Gladiators, for the sweet-looking Boba Fett sweaters worn during this weekend’s Star Wars night. 

*It’s pretty amazing when you’re an NHL player and a former first round pick, and you’re the one most known for being somebody else’s brother. That’s life for Dallas Stars D-man Jamie Oleksiak. 

*Interesting piece about sportswriting, politics and a couple of worlds that were destined to collide at some point. 

*For something completely different: For the 40h anniversary of Star Wars, the toys are being used to recreate classic movie scenes. 

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

The mission for the Bruins on their four-game road swing through the West Coast is certainly to keep the momentum going, but it’s also to quell any talk that the positive results will be short-lived following the coaching change.

The Bruins won there first three games interim head coach Bruce Cassidy headed into the five-day “bye week”, and they’ll come out on the other side with a potentially dangerous road swing through California that will finish up in Dallas next weekend. 

The Black and Gold have gone into death spirals before on the Cali trip, so that’s always a danger when going coast-to-coast to face tough teams in the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.

There’s also the fact that NHL teams are 3-10-2 as of Saturday afternoon in the first game coming back from the five-day midseason vacation. That means the B’s are going to face a stiff uphill battle on Sunday night against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. 

The challenge is going to be there for the Bruins to answer all of those challenges when they’ve shrunk away from such adversity most of the season. It gives the Bruins yet another chance to show that the three games aren’t merely a sugar-high after cages had been rattled and is instead something that Boston sustains over the season’s final two-plus months.

“Our thinking is to try to win every game. We know the standings. We know it’s pretty tight. We put ourselves in some of the games in tough situations. Now, we’ve got to climb up and fight for every point,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s going to be very important that we do that and play that way until the end.

“We can look at the standings as much as we want. I think that we really have to focus on how we play, how we want to go into every game, and what we can do to get as many points as possible.”

The good news for the Bruins is that the teams chasing them in the standings really haven’t gained ground on them, and they enter Saturday still in a playoff spot. So, the mathematics don’t look as dire for Boston as they did going into their rest period, and now they should be energized, recharged and highly motivated headed into the final 24 games of the season.

There’s also the fact that the Bruins were playing exciting, aggressive and winning hockey due to some of the tweaks made by Cassidy after taking control of the team. He finally got some production from the third line after putting forwards Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes together, a combo he never truly gave a look because he didn’t trust them to do the job defensively. Cassidy immediately placed 21-year-old Peter Cehlarik into a top-six role with power-play time straight from the AHL. That’s something one almost never saw happen with rookies and inexperienced guys during Julien’s run.

The B’s defensemen corps scored four goals in the three wins and showed aggressive, timely risk-taking to produce offense when playing it safe was normally the call of the day under Julien. The forwards were avoiding the low-to-high passing to the point that so often resulted in perimeter shots from the Bruins in the offensive zone, and instead attacked the net down low with the forwards looking to put some anxiety into the opponent’s D-zone coverage.

It all worked and it all looked remarkably different from the way the Bruins played in the opening 55 games.

“It’s something we need to bottle up and not change our approach, not change what we’re doing, make sure we’re moving [during the bye] and not just sitting idle and getting rusty,” said David Backes last weekend headed into the bye. “Make sure that mentally, we can have those same sort of mindsets for every guy to be contributing. It’s something that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but guys are recognized in here for doing those things and that’s winning culture. That’s what we’re building.”

The Bruins now get their chance to prove this is a permanent change to a winning culture rather than a short term, three-game adrenaline rush after watching their longtime coach get fired. It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be for the Black and Gold if they’re finally going to earn their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons.