BUFFALO, N.Y. – Turns out, Mother Nature could only delay the Boston Bruins from continuing what’s become their hottest start in franchise history.
A day after Boston’s home game against Tampa Bay was postponed because of a blizzard, the Bruins travelled to Buffalo to pick up their pace with a 3-1 win over the Sabres on Sunday night.
“Yesterday, we were ready to play, so I guess it gave us a day to rest,” centre Patrick Bergeron. “We got here, and we knew Buffalo played last night, so we tried to take advantage of that.”
Bergeron capitalized on a fortunate carom off the end boards to score the go-ahead goal on a power play 7:52 into the third period. Milan Lucic clinched the win with an empty-netter in the final minute in helping the Bruins improve to 8-1-1.
The Bruins earned their 17th point, the most they’ve had through 10 games. The previous best was 16 points over that span, set four times—the last in 1978-79, when Boston opened 7-1-2.
Brad Marchand, back after missing one game with an upper-body injury, also scored. Backup goalie Anton Khudobin made 25 saves in only his second start of the season.
“Certainly, we had a different day yesterday, but at least we made it here,” coach Claude Julien said. “No doubt, we were well-rested.”
And healthier, too. Aside from Marchand, the Bruins also welcomed back forwards Daniel Paille (upper body) and Shawn Thornton (concussion), after both had missed two games. And they bounced back by defeating the only team that’s beat them after a 7-4 loss to Buffalo at Boston on Jan. 31.
Tyler Ennis scored for the Sabres (5-7-1) in a game that would’ve been far more lopsided in the Bruins’ favour if not for Ryan Miller, who was outstanding in making 36 saves.
Unlike the Bruins, who were off since a 2-1 win at Montreal on Wednesday, the Sabres were coming off a 3-2 win at Long Island on Saturday. Buffalo was also playing its third game in four days and 11th in 18 days.
“They didn’t play the other day, and I think we started showing our fatigue around the mid-point,” said Miller, who made 41 saves against the Islanders.
Outshot 23-13 over the final two periods, the Sabres compounded their troubles by taking lazy penalties and coughing up the puck in their own zone.
Marchand opened the scoring 7:10 into the second period after Ennis’ lazy clearing attempt was picked off at the right point.
And Bergeron’s goal came 28 seconds after Buffalo’s Mike Weber began serving a delay-of-game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass in his own zone. The Bruins worked the puck back to the left point, where Chris Bourque’s point shot hit a body in front.
The puck took a hard carom off the end boards and dribbled directly to Bergeron in the left circle, from where he snapped a shot into the top right corner.
“A couple of those plays, yeah, I shake my head. We made some tough decisions,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “You’ve got to take better care of the puck.”
Miller was otherwise outstanding in keeping the Sabres in it.
In the first period, Miller got his right pad out to stop Zdeno Chara on a breakaway. Early into the third period, Miller got his glove up to snag Marchand’s snap shot from the lower right circle, where he was set up by Thomas Vanek’s giveaway.
Miller’s best save came six minutes into the second period when he spread-eagled, getting his right pad out, to stop Nathan Horton’s one-timer from the left circle.
The Bruins goalie had his big moments, too, though most of the Sabres shots he faced came from the outside.
Khudobin got his blocker out to stop Stafford’s sharp shot from the right circle 5 minutes in. He did the same to stop a shot from defenceman Andrej Sekera from nearly the same spot midway through the second period.
“Just stop all the pucks that I can pretty much, and hope guys will score goals,” Khudobin said of his approach to backing up Tuukka Rask. “I felt very good.”
NOTES: Sabres D Robyn Regehr returned after missing seven games with a lower body injury. LW Matt Ellis was waived for reassignment to AHL Rochester. … The Bruins went 1-for 5 on the power play after entering the game having converted an NHL-worst 3 of 34. … Sabres LW Ville Lieno, who’s yet to play this season because of a hip injury, said before the game that he felt “not bad” after skating earlier in the day.