BUFFALO, N.Y. – A costly giveaway didn’t prevent Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff from giving Derek Roy a second chance.
The Sabres centre delivered, scoring the decisive goal in the fourth shootout round of a 2-1 win over the Northeast Division-leading Boston Bruins on Friday night.
“I just felt in the shootout, ‘OK, I’m going to give you a chance to get it back for us,'” Ruff said, explaining his decision to send out Roy. “It was great to see it go in. It was great to see him respond and get us that goal.”
After Boston’s David Krejci and Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek traded shootout goals, Roy scored by driving in from the right side and faking cutting across the front. That’s when he quickly leaned into a backhander, lifting a shot that glanced off goalie Tuukka Rask’s glove, off the right post and in.
Boston’s Benoit Pouliot had a chance to force a fifth round, but shot wide of the net.
“Big goal for us,” Roy said. “Huge goal for us.”
For Roy, the goal made up for his giveaway that led to Zdeno Chara tying the game at 1 with a power-play goal 3:36 into the third period. And it also made up for Roy getting robbed in the opening minute, when his redirection in front caromed off Chara’s skate and hugged the goal line.
Ryan Miller made 35 saves through overtime and stopped three of four shootout attempts in helping the Sabres improve to 3-0-1 in their past four. Andrej Sekera scored for the Sabres, who are 8-3-2 in their past 13 games and continued climbing up the Eastern Conference standings.
Buffalo (27-27-7) jumped ahead of idle Tampa Bay to move into 11th place, five points behind eighth-place Florida.
The Bruins played a penalty-free game for the first time since a 2-2 tie at the New York Islanders on Jan. 27, 2004. But Boston (36-20-3) continues to struggle on offence, having managed just 18 goals in regulation over their past 11. And the Bruins are also having difficulty stringing wins together.
Coming off a 4-2 victory at St. Louis on Wednesday, the Bruins have failed to win consecutive games in more than a month. They’ve now dropped to 8-9-2 in their past 19, since a two-game win streak on Jan. 10-12.
Coach Claude Julien wasn’t too disappointed. He credited his players for rallying back in a game in which Boston outshot Buffalo 36-28, including 15-5 in the third period.
“Maybe not back-to-back wins, but back-to-back good efforts,” Julien said. “I thought we really played well in the third, I thought we took it to them.”
It was a far better outing for Rask, who was yanked after allowing three goals on 10 shots in 22 minutes during a 6-0 loss at Buffalo on Feb. 8.
He had no chance on Sekera’s goal. The defenceman scored with 5:15 left in the second period on a great wrist shot from the right circle, after being set up by Tyler Ennis from behind the net.
“A point for us is OK,” Rask said. “We haven’t played consistently over the past couple of weeks. But I think against St. Louis we played a great game, and today we played a good game … and we have to keep it going.”
They’re going to have to after frittering away much of their edge atop the division. Boston’s only two points up on Ottawa. It’s a rival the Bruins will face twice in the next four days, in a home-and-home series that opens at Ottawa on Saturday.
“This is where a lot of things are going to be decided here, whether we make it a tight race or whether we really push them down,” Julien said. “We’ll be up to the task.”
The Sabres’ schedule doesn’t get any easier either. After playing eight of nine at home, they hit the road for five straight starting at the East-leading New York Rangers on Saturday.
At least they’re leaving town with some momentum.
“I’m just happy to get some wins,” Miller said. “I guess it doesn’t really matter who it’s against. But we know they’re a very good team and we had to play a good game to beat them, and those do feel good.”
Miller had no chance on Chara’s goal, which sailed in over his left shoulder.
He was otherwise solid. Miller’s best save came a minute into the second period, when Paul Gaustad’s errant pass inside the blue line led to Boston’s Tyler Seguin breaking in alone up the middle. Seguin snapped a shot from 10 feet only to have Miller get a piece of it and deflect it wide.
Notes: Boston went 1 of 4 on the power play after going 2 of 22 in its previous 10 games. … Bruins C Brad Marchand was booed by Sabres fans each time he touched the puck, a day after he referred to Buffalo as “the worst place in the NHL,” during an interview on a Boston radio station. … The Sabres recalled F Corey Tropp from AHL Rochester earlier in the day to fill in for RW Brad Boyes, who did not play because of an upper-body injury.