BUFFALO The Bruins didnt have their best legs or their best brand of hockey in Buffalo, but its results that matter most this time of year.
So somehow the Bruins overcame a lackluster first 40 minutes to get a point in a 2-1 grudge match shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center, and continued making steps in the right direction.
David Krejcis opening bid trickled through Ryan Millers pads, but both Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy scored for the Sabres on Rask to make the difference in the shootout.
A Zdeno Chara bomb just outside the right face-off circle steamed over Ryan Millers left shoulder to tie the proceedings up at a 1-1 score and kick-started another strong third period effort for the Bs.
It was sweet justice for the Bs captain, who had been denied on a first period shot that dinged off the crossbar after it had beaten Miller.
The Sabres had seized control of the game in the second period when Buffalo held the Bruins without a shot on their first power play of the game, and then poured on the pressure immediately afterward. Tyler Ennis fed a trailing Andrej Sekera from behind the net, and the Sabres defenseman smoked one past Tuukka Rask to open the scoring.
The two teams battled through a scoreless overtime before deciding things in the shootout for the second time this season.
GOLD STAR: Tuukka Rask finished with 26 saves and seemed to finally find himself despite extending his personal losing streak to six games. The Finnish netminder had worked with goalie coach Bob Essensa on his technique over the last few days and the 24-year-old Rask appeared much more comfortable between the pipes. He had a solid stop on Derek Roy in the opening minute of the game, and then stopped Roy again late in the third to force overtime. Rask got a piece of both successful shootout bids by Thomas Vanek and Roy, but couldnt contain them. It wasnt perfect, but it was an excellent first step.
HONORABLE MENTION: Johnny Boychuk didnt factor into the scoring, but he played a heavy 21:47 for the Bruins while pushing the game to overtime. It was Boychuk who helped foster the sense of urgency in the final period by flopping down face-first to block a Jordan Leopold shot from the high slot area during a scrambling moment in the opening minute. He blocked that single shot, tossed out three hits and fired off four shots in an active, physical evening for the Bs that doesnt show up on the stat sheet.
BLACK EYE: No shots on net and no hits for Brad Marchand in 19:31 of ice time and he danced perilously close to earning his team a penalty in the closing moments of the third period while tangling with Paul Gaustad and Mike Weber. The scrum ended with both Weber and Marchand attempting to raise their sticks up between the other players legs. So uncouth. Marchand was also booed every time he touched the puck by the Buffalo faithful after making the nightly news for calling their fair city the worst city in the NHL during a radio interview with WEEI.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins were down 1-0 headed into the third period and hadnt shown close to enough urgency with every game gaining in importance down the regular season stretch. But they out-shot the Sabres by a 15-5 margin in the final 20 minutes, tied the game on a Zdeno Chara bomb and guaranteed themselves a point for the second straight game. It isnt exactly winning streak, but its the beginning stages of the Bs rounding back into form.
BY THE NUMBERS: 4-2-3 the Bruins record in the first end of back-to-back games this season with a Saturday night tilt in Ottawa against the Senators on the schedule.
QUOTE TO NOTE: It was a good battle. The shootouts can go either way. I just tried to be more patient and not go down too early. I did a pretty job of that except for the Sekera goal. It was a good step ahead for me. Hopefully I can keep it up. Tuukka Rask, who lost his sixth game in a row but put forth his best effort in more than a month in a 2-1 shootout loss.