BOSTON – Chuck Kobasew didn’t miss a beat.
The forward marked his long-awaited return to the Bruins lineup with a goal and an assist, and Manny Fernandez made 32 saves in Boston’s 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
The Bruins have won six of seven and four in a row at home and moved into a first-place tie with Buffalo in the Northeast Division with 19 points.
“Chuck looked good,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “I told him if he came back in, he had to be a difference-maker.”
Kobasew, returning to the Boston lineup after missing 12 games because of a broken leg, assisted on Dennis Wideman’s first-period goal that got the Bruins into a 1-1 tie. He then put the Bruins ahead to stay when a took a pass at his blue line, skated down the right wing and fired a shot that appeared to deflect off Buffalo defenceman Teppo Numminen past goalie Ryan Miller at 2:07 of the second period.
“It’s nice when you don’t have to fight it,” Kobasew said of his first goal. “I got lucky.”
The Bruins outshot the Sabres 16-8 in the third period, and second-year winger Milan Lucic rattled the Sabres with several big hits. Julien said the physical play sets a tone for the rest of the team and gets the fans into the game.
“You know he (Lucic) is always going to finish his check,” Julien said. “A lot of times that creates turnovers.”
Tim Connolly stole the puck at the Bruins blue line, played give-and-go with Jason Pominville, and then banged a shot in off the crossbar to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead 10:16 into the first period. It was Connolly’s first goal of the season after he missed the first 10 games of the season with a back injury.
Stephane Yelle twirled by the side boards and then fed Wideman at the point, for a screened shot that beat Miller with 2:24 left in the first period to tie it at 1.
Kobasew gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead at 2:47 of the second, and Boston added some insurance later in the period. The rebound of Phil Kessel’s shot bounced right to Marc Savard by the left circle. Savard fired a shot off Miller and into the net at 7:59 for his sixth of the season, and first in the last 11 games.
Fernandez denied Pominville during a third-period power play to protect the two-goal lead.
“It took the first period to get adjusted,” said Fernandez, who had watched Tim Thomas play five straight games. “You try to keep the rebounds in your favour.”
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said things started going downhill for his club in the second period.
“Up to that point it was pretty tightly contested,” he said. “We gave up some opportunities. (That was when) their transition game really got started.”
Two of the Bruins goals were scored on long shots that found their way past Miller.
“If you’re going to be there, you’ve got to be there,” Ruff said.
Notes: The Bruins’ four-game home winning streak is their longest since the 2003-04 season. … Savard had five goals in the first three games of the season before going scoreless in 11 straight. … The Sabres have killed 31 of 32 road penalties. … Buffalo considered giving Miller a night off after a 5-4 home loss to Atlanta on Friday, but the No. 1 goalie convinced Ruff he felt fine to play on back-to-back nights.