BOSTON – Zdeno Chara played well and delivered checks hours after Montreal police began an investigation of his hit two days earlier that left an opponent with a serious concussion and fractured vertebra.
Their captain’s performance wasn’t enough for the Boston Bruins to hold on to two leads Thursday night.
Brad Boyes scored at 3:44 of overtime and the Buffalo Sabres beat the Bruins 4-3. What was Boyes thinking with an open net on his side at the right corner of the crease?
“I think ‘Don’t miss it,'” he said. “I think, get my whole body in the way if it bounces, tough ice out there at the end. If it bounces I have to make sure that, whatever happens, it’s not going wide.”
For Chara, the challenge was to play his usual aggressive style. And he did that with an early hit on Jason Pominville that sparked chants of “Cha-ra! Cha-ra!” from the crowd.
“It’s something I very much appreciate,” Chara said. “I don’t see any reason to change my game or my style of play. I’m going to continue to play physical and play hard.”
Chara received a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct Tuesday night after slamming Max Pacioretty of the Canadiens into a padded stanchion supporting a glass partition. The NHL announced Wednesday that Chara wouldn’t be suspended and Pacioretty was released from the hospital Thursday.
“Obviously, his state of mind is not at best, which is normal,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said about Chara. “You understand what’s going on. It’s not easy but, like I said, I thought he handled himself well tonight.”
The victory put the Sabres in a seventh-place tie with the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference with 74 points and two games in hand. But the Rangers have two more wins.
“When you score in overtime this time of year it’s exciting,” Boyes said. “It’s about getting points now. It doesn’t matter who we play.”
His winning goal was set up by Nathan Gerbe, whose shot from 30 feet was stopped by goalie Tim Thomas, who seemed to lose sight of the puck after the save. Gerbe retrieved it just to the right of Thomas and passed across the crease to an unguarded Boyes, who tapped in his 15th goal of the season.
“I just tried to get it on net as quick as possible and get the rebound,” Gerbe said. “I saw Thomas fumbled it there a little bit.”
Thomas stopped 41 shots but couldn’t stop Boyes after Gerbe’s twisting shot.
“It was a knuckler,” Thomas said. “You can’t really control the rebound on that. … You see strange shots when you give up (45) shots.”
Boston squandered leads of 2-0 in the second period and 3-2 in the third.
The Bruins’ Nathan Horton scored midway through the first before Mark Recchi increased the lead 11 minutes into the second. The Sabres tied it in the last nine minutes of that period on goals by Tyler Ennis and Thomas Vanek.
Boston went ahead again on Gregory Campbell’s goal at 2:18 of the third, but Tim Connolly tied it less than three minutes later.
The Bruins lost their third straight game after winning seven in a row.
The Sabres tied it 3-3 at 5:05 of the third period on Connolly’s ninth goal on a two-man advantage. He scored on a scramble just in front of Thomas with two Bruins on the ice in front of the goalie.
That erased a lead the Bruins had taken less than three minutes earlier. Chara fired the puck from about 50 feet. It hit two players then caromed to Campbell, who got his 10th goal.
Trailing 2-0 midway through the second period, the Sabres scored twice in just over seven minutes to tie it 2-2 going into the third.
Just 27 seconds after Recchi scored his 12th goal, Ennis got his 15th when he knocked the puck off Bruins defenceman Adam McQuaid in the crease and it slipped past Thomas at 11:53 of the period.
Vanek tied it for the Sabres with his 24th goal at 18:56, breaking their 0-for-18 scoreless streak on the power play. Vanek shot the puck from a few feet away from Thomas. The goalie swiped at it with his left glove and it dropped behind him just in front of the goal line before it trickled in.
“Physically, weknow they are good,” Gerbe said. “They are a top team and they have a lot of good players so we had to play them tough.”
NOTES: Chara was penalized for boarding in the second period, although Steve Montador slid about 10 feet after being knocked down and before hitting the boards. “The referee made the call. I have to respect that,” Chara said. … Tyler Seguin, the second overall pick in last year’s draft, was a healthy scratch for Boston for the second time in four games. … Former Bruin Boyes got his 32nd assist on Connolly’s goal.