Ryan Miller and Buffalo Sabres spoiled Marc Savard’s return to the reeling Boston Bruins.
Despite getting Savard back from a knee injury that forced him to miss the past eight games, Boston continued its slide Friday night, falling 2-1 to the Sabres. Miller made 30 saves to send the Bruins (23-21-8) to their sixth consecutive loss – their worst winless drought since December 2007 – and ninth defeat in their past 10 games (1-8-1).
“We were better, but unfortunately we’re looking at the end results, and it wasn’t there,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “If we’re going to start winning hockey games, we can’t dig ourselves a hole every night and try to get out of it. But our whole game was much better than it has been.”
That may be debatable, according to Sabres defenceman Henrik Tallinder.
“They used to come harder,” he said. “They’ve been struggling a little bit lately so that could be it, too.”
After accumulating 116 points last season, the Bruins are on pace for just 85 with 29 games to go.
“We need to pick it up and turn this around as quickly as we can,” said Milan Lucic, who scored Boston’s lone goal. “We made some strides in the right direction. We just have to keep going and stay positive.”
Savard, who led the team in scoring the past three years, provided a boost that Lucic believes could be critical in Boston’s playoff push.
“He’s a big part of this team,” Lucic said. “We need him around here and we need him to do his part.”
Miller is certainly doing his part for the Sabres. The likely starter for the United States in the Olympics surrendered just one goal for the second consecutive game, and helped preserve the win with a solid third period when Boston outshot Buffalo 12-5.
“We did a good job,” he said. “We stuck to the system, and two goals did it. For the most part this league is all about grinding it out and getting to the third period in a tight game and trying to hold on.”
Tallinder and Thomas Vanek scored for the Sabres (32-14-7), who’ve won two straight after a disappointing 2-3-2 trip.
“It’s big for us to come home and get four big points,” Vanek said. “The last two years we learned that we lost a lot of games in the last 20 minutes and it cost us the playoffs. We put a lot of emphasis on that in training camp and we’re doing a good job so far.”
The Sabres tightened up over the final 75 seconds of regulation by not allowing a shot while the Bruins had the extra attacker.
Tuukka Rask made 21 saves for Boston.
The Sabres struck first when Tallinder snapped in his third goal from the top of the left circle 4 minutes into the first period on Buffalo’s first shot.
Vanek made it 2-0 with a power-play goal with 2:28 to go in the first. It was his team-leading 16th goal of the season.
Lucic cut it to 2-1 midway through the second period when his wrist shot from the slot eluded Miller.
NOTES: Bruins LW Marco Sturm missed his sixth game because of a leg injury. … Two of Lucic’s three goals this season have come in Buffalo. … Buffalo C Tim Connolly assisted on Vanek’s goal, giving him points in 17 of his last 18 games. … Miller is 11-1-3 in 15 home meetings with the Bruins. … Derek Roy was called for Buffalo’s first penalty with just under 9 minutes to go in regulation.