BUFFALO - On Saturday, in his debut as a Bruin, Alex Auld saw his defense choke off the Toronto attack. The Maple Leafs got off only 26 shots, with perhaps a third of those bona fide scoring chances.
Last night was far different.
The fast-moving Sabres, who put up a 7-spot on San Jose Saturday, had their skates whirring and their sticks blasting. Buffalo poured 45 shots on Auld, who responded by stopping all but one, leading the Bruins to a 4-1 victory before 18,302 at
"Thank God for Alex Auld tonight," said Marc Savard. "He was fantastic."
The Bruins also had Buffalo's sluggish legs at the start to thank. The Sabres had traveled from California late Saturday, and before last night's game, coach Lindy Ruff expressed concern about his team's energy level in the early minutes.
Ruff turned out to be correct. After only 7:13 of play, the Bruins had a 2-0 lead, scoring on two of their first three shots on goalie Ryan Miller. And as much pressure as the Sabres applied on Auld later in the game, the early deficit was too steep to overcome.
"That helped us," said Mark Stuart. "We came out with a good start and got the lead. We knew they had been on the road, so we just wanted to come out quick."
Savard put the Bruins on the board first. The No. 1 line rolled out a near-perfect forecheck, as Glen Murray steered defenseman Toni Lydman to one side. As Lydman carried the puck toward the wall, P.J. Axelsson came down along the boards, cutting off any seam that might have existed.
At the same time, Savard clogged up the middle and filled a passing lane that Lydman might have chosen. Lydman did just that, sending an ill-advised diagonal pass through center ice for Tim Connolly that Savard picked off. As quickly as Savard gained control of the puck, the center was just as swift to release a shot that eluded Miller at 6:29.
Forty-four seconds later, Savard's line struck again. The puck went back to Dennis Wideman in the Boston zone, prompting Ruff to call for a line change. When Wideman saw the Sabres going off, the defenseman sent a quick pass up ice to Savard, who kicked off an odd-man rush. Axelsson made himself available in the slot for Savard's dish, collecting the puck and winging it past Miller (three first-period saves, 17 total) to give his club a 2-0 lead.
But the Sabres eventually emerged from their doldrums. With Andrew Alberts off for hooking at 14:15 of the first, Buffalo netted a power-play goal to halve Boston's lead. Auld stopped a point one-timer by Ales Kotalik, but the rebound dribbled into the slot. Aaron Ward couldn't clear the puck, allowing a pinching Jaroslav Spacek to sweep a shot into the net at 16:01.
Peter Schaefer got the goal back at 17:11, but the Sabres kept the hammer down on the Boston defense. Early in the second period, Auld foiled an odd-man rush by blocking Kotalik's blast.
Then after Matt Hunwick was called for tripping at 3:14, Auld made two sparklers. First, he got his stick on a close-range shot by Thomas Vanek. Then when forward Derek Roy pounced on the rebound, Auld recovered and booted out the shot.
Later in the period, Auld ventured out of the net to stop a shot by forward Drew Stafford. Roy found the rebound and whipped a shot on goal, but Auld scooted back and kicked out the puck with his left pad.
Even in the final second of the period, Auld had to make a tough save. Forward Jason Pominville pounded a one-timer that Auld kicked out just before the buzzer, his 20th save of the middle frame.
"He looked great," said Stuart. "There's no reason we should be giving up that many shots for him. But he stuck in there and played really well. He saved us in the second.
"I think we came out with a good start. But once we came out with the lead, we stopped doing the things that got us the lead. We weren't happy with the second and part of the third.
"We can't give up that many shots. If our goalie doesn't play as well as he did, it's a different story."