Talking Points: Sabres 2, Bruins 1

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Talking Points: Sabres 2, Bruins 1

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.

Spooner, coming to life with Bruins, feels Julien 'just didn't really trust me'

Spooner, coming to life with Bruins, feels Julien 'just didn't really trust me'

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins' third line has been reborn under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, and the players are now openly admitting they desperately needed a change.

Claude Julien never trusted Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes enough defensively to play them together, but this line has blossomed under Cassidy: Six goals, 15 points and a plus-11 in seven games. They’ve survived in the defensive zone by rarely playing there. Instead, they push the pace, make plays to keep the puck out of the D-zone and, most importantly, keep producing the secondary offense that wasn’t there in the first 55 games of the season. 

No one has been freed from the shackles more than Spooner, who is back playing his natural center position after being forced to play left wing under Julien. The 25-year-old said Tuesday that getting a clean slate with a new coach has been extremely beneficial to him, and that perhaps he didn't always love playing for the guy now minding the bench in Montreal. 

“I felt like the last coach ... he just didn’t really trust me,” said Spooner, who has two goals and six points along with a plus-1 rating in seven games post-Julien. “It might've been kind of on me not really playing to the potential that I have, but at the same time . . . I just don’t think that he really liked me as a player. It’s kind of in the past now. It’s just a part of the game. It’s up to me to just go out there and just play, and not have that stuff in the back of my mind. 

“I just kind of have to go out there and believe in myself and I think at times I wasn’t really going out there and doing that. Maybe that’s something to learn. This sport has ups and downs, and I’ve had my downs. You learn that you can just sort of push through it. If you do that then things can be good.”

Spooner has 10 goals and 33 points along with a minus-3 this season, and could potentially surpass last year's numbers (13-36-49) in his second full season. 

Most felt that the speedy, skilled Spooner would be one of the big beneficiaries of the move from Julien to Cassidy, and now he’s showing that with a new lease on life in Boston. 

Tuesday, Feb. 28: Nothing coming easy for Habs

Tuesday, Feb. 28: Nothing coming easy for Habs

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while it’s all happening around the NHL world ahead of tomorrow’s NHL trade deadline.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Eric Engels says that a torturous February shows that nothing will come easy for the Montreal Canadiens.

*Some raw locker room video from the Florida Panthers with local D-man Keith Yandle holding court with reporters.

*PHT writer James O’Brien has some early thoughts, and some praise, for the Washington Capitals landing puck-moving D-man and big ticket rental player Kevin Shattenkirk.

*The Toronto Maple Leafs up their playoff cred by landing gritty, big third-line center Brian Boyle ahead of the trade deadline.

*Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are the city of Chicago’s longest-tenured teammates having spent the last 12 years together with the Blackhawks.

*Patrice Bergeron and Toucher and Rich are getting together for their 10th annual Cuts for a Cause, which will be on March 27.

https://www.nhl.com/bruins/community/cuts-for-a-cause

*For something completely different: Jimmy Kimmel gives his perspective of the debacle that went down at the end of the Academy Awards on Sunday night.

http://www.rollingstone.com/tv/news/watch-jimmy-kimmel-on-oscars-best-picture-award-mistake-w469552