BUFFALO -- A month ago, the Bruins were mired in a protracted slump. The owner, Jeremy Jacobs, was calling for changes, the general manager, Mike O'Connell, was dissatisfied, and the coach, Mike Sullivan, was trying to pull a rabbit out of his hat to turn his team's fortunes around.
The players believed they could become successful again, as they were early in the season when they went 6-2-2-1 in the first month.
Call it keeping your New Year's resolution. The Bruins remained unbeaten in 2004 with a 1-0 victory over the Sabres last night at the HSBC Arena.
The Bruins have won five in a row and are unbeaten in seven (6-0-1-0) since bidding farewell to 2003.
Goalie Felix Potvin, making his first start in five games, stopped 27 shots en route to his third shutout of the season and 31st of his career. It was the first time the Bruins had shut out the Sabres in Buffalo since April 3, 1993, when Andy Moog was between the pipes. Potvin is riding an unbeaten streak in his last four starts (3-0-1).
"I thought we played a pretty good game," said Sullivan. "We had a good first period. We started to control territory and our second period as well. In the third period, we didn't pursue it maybe quite as much as we wanted to or as much as we did in the first two periods, anyway. But I thought our team, for the most part, did a pretty good job defending down the stretch.
"I'd like to see our team be a little more aggressive in the third period [the Bruins were outshot, 12-4] and continue to pursue the puck up the ice. When we do that, we're effective and we force turnovers and that's how we can control the game territorially."
Revenge might have been on the Sabres' minds, but that's as far as it got. For the second time in four nights, the Bruins took on the Sabres, who blew a two-goal lead in the third period Monday night at the FleetCenter in a 4-3 loss. Last night, the first period resembled a chess match more than a grudge match. There were only three minor penalties called in the contest and two fighting majors. Doug Doull squared off with Sabres left wing Andrew Peters in the second period.
Boston's top line of Joe Thornton, Sergei Samsonov, and Glen Murray -- reunited Wednesday -- accounted for the goal. They were a force all night, combining for nine of the team's 24 shots.
The goal came at 15:27 of the second with Thornton taking advantage of a turnover by defenseman Dmitri Kalinin in the Buffalo zone. Thornton skated to the inside edge of the right circle and dished to Murray on the left. Murray took a shot that goalie Mika Noronen turned back but Samsonov was at the top of the crease for the rebound and fired it past the netminder. It was Samsonov's ninth goal of the season and second in two games.
"I just came around the net and I was actually going to pass it to Jeff Jillson, who was streaking down," said Thornton. "I just kind of held on for a second and I saw Muzz at the back door. [The rebound] landed right on Sergei's stick, which the puck usually does, and he buried it. It was a good goal. He looks so much more confident. He's definitely got his legs back and he's feeling the puck a lot better now. Hopefully, he stays hot for us."
Samsonov said it was just a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
"It was just a hard-working goal from our whole line," he said. "We cycled a little bit and Glen had a pretty good opportunity to score. I was trying to get to the net and the puck just bounced in front of me and it went in. Sometimes you don't have to think where those two guys are. It makes it a lot easier to create some space. Those guys obviously have great skill. It's fun playing with them."