BUFFALO, N.Y. – A gritty effort finally produced the results the Buffalo Sabres desperately needed.
Derek Roy scored twice and the Sabres beat the Northeast Division-leading Boston Bruins 3-2 on Wednesday night to snap a five-game losing streak. After outshooting their previous two opponents – Philadelphia and the New York Islanders – by a 77-51 margin, Buffalo still found itself on the losing end. But against the Bruins, the Sabres were able to convert on their chances to win for just the second time in the last nine games.
“It was a just a matter of getting the bounces,” Roy said. “We were desperate for a win, and when you’re desperate guys are making plays, blocking shots, and not being too fancy. Everyone was on the same page, and played hard.”
Beating the Bruins, who came in tied with the New York Rangers atop the Eastern Conference, added that much more for the downtrodden Sabres (10-8-3), who started the year 8-2-2.
“It just shows we can play with anybody if we play consistent for 60 minutes and pay attention to our system,” said Jochen Hecht, whose short-handed goal in the second period gave Buffalo a 3-1 lead with 15 minutes to go. “If we play our game and keep it simple we can beat anybody in this league.”
Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller made 27 saves to snap a personal three-game losing streak.
“We were hard on the puck and hard defensively,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “That made it really tough on them.”
Matt Hunwick and Phil Kessel scored for Boston (14-4-4), which had its four-game winning streak snapped. Boston’s Tim Thomas stopped 20 shots in losing for the first time in regulation since a 3-2 defeat at Calgary on Oct. 30.
It was a rare bad outing for the steady Thomas, who allowed more than two goals for the first time since that Calgary defeat, a span of seven straight starts.
“Things weren’t clicking right off the bat,” he said. “As things went on we played with more urgency, just maybe a little too late.”
Even more unusual was Boston losing in regulation, as they entered having earned points in 10 straight games.
“We didn’t play three periods and it cost us,” centre Marc Savard said. “Teams are too good in this league, especially these guys.”
Roy opened the scoring at 9:18 of the first. While in the slot, Roy stole the puck off Boston’s David Krejci’s stick and quickly whipped a wrist shot past Thomas.
Buffalo upped its lead to 2-0 when Roy scored his sixth of the year with a snap shot from the bottom of the right circle that beat Thomas with 1 1/2 minutes left in the first.
Hunwick halved the deficit with his third of the season 4:31 into the second, and Hecht made it 3-1 30 seconds later with a slap shot from the left circle that went off Thomas’ glove.
“Just missed it,” Thomas said.
Kessel cut the lead to 3-2 with his 11th with 10:35 left in the third period. Savard slightly whiffed on his slap shot from the right circle, but got enough of it that Milan Lucic was able to steer it to Kessel, who deposited the puck into an empty net after Miller committed on Savard’s shot.
“We got better as the game went on after a poor first period where we didn’t match their effort and determination,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “When you’re the top dog, teams are gunning for you. They came out extremely hard.”
Notes: This was already the fourth of six meetings between the two teams, and third this month. Both clubs have won twice, including a shootout win for the Sabres. … Sabres LW Thomas Vanek missed the last half of the second period after absorbing a hit along the boards by Lucic. Vanek sustained a bruise on his leg, but returned for the third period. … Buffalo debuted its third jersey, which is highlighted by the team’s original logo. … It was Roy’s first two-goal game of the season. … Kessel extended his points streak to seven games.