Bruins squander two-goal lead and fall to Sabres in overtime
There is no telling where the Bruins will end up this season, but wherever it is, at the moment they are going the wrong way.
After booting away a 2-0 lead in the second period on home ice, and working against themselves much of the night with a litany of penalties (11 total for 31 minutes), the Bruins lost for a third straight time last night, 4-3, to the Buffalo Sabres when ex-Bruin Brad Boyes knocked home the winner off a Nathan Gerbe relay with 3:44 gone in overtime.
“You see some strange shots when you give up 46 of them, or whatever it was,’’ said Boston goalie Tim Thomas, who saw Buffalo amass a 45-29 shot lead for the night. “We had some stupid penalties, some questionable calls, but you can’t keep giving them chances.’’
The loss was Boston’s second in three nights and came only 48 hours after a flatfooted 4-1 loss in Montreal that included the hit by Zdeno Chara that left Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty with a severe concussion and a cracked vertebra.
Chara, with the sellout Garden crowd of 17,565 chanting his name in support of the captain in the first period, played a meaty 25:54 and added two assists, no doubt to the chagrin of thousands of irate Habs fans still convinced that he targeted Pacioretty and intentionally tried to maim him. The league ruled on Wednesday that Chara would not face any disciplinary action or fine for what it deemed to be not an excessive hit on Pacioretty.
“We all feel bad for him,’’ Chara said again late last night, nearly an hour after the loss. “Rivalry or no rivalry . . . we all want to see the guy recover.’’
Meanwhile, Bruins fans are eager to see their hometown heroes recover the pluck and strut that recently had Claude Julien’s swashbucklers rolling along to seven straight wins. Where did that team go? The Bruins will be on Long Island tonight, facing the pesky Islanders, and they will be trying to shake an 0-1-2 funk in which they have been outscored, 11-6, while also going 0 for 8 on the power play. Not a confident squad, especially on the man-advantage, which has gone eight straight games without a strike (0 for 19).
Last night was bad for both of Boston’s special team units. The power play was 0 for 3, although two of the Bruins’ goals came in the seconds immediately after power plays expired. The penalty kill, which twice was faced with five-on-three disadvantages, was burned on two of seven kills — after yielding two PPGs to the Habs on Tuesday.
On the winner, with the clubs skating four aside, Gerbe dashed into the zone and squeezed off a high, knuckleballing wrister that forced Thomas to move slightly to his right and deflect with his right shoulder. The puck popped out to the left circle, where an alert Gerbe retrieved it and zipped it to the right post for the awaiting Boyes to mash into an open net. Thomas had not yet been able to scramble back to his crease.
“When it’s high on the blocker side, and knuckling, you can’t really control the rebound,’’ said Thomas. “Actually, it’s all so fast . . . you put it up in the air like that for a purpose, to buy time to allow guys to get back — but it didn’t happen that way.’’ Neither of the two defensemen, Tomas Kaberle nor Johnny Boychuk, scurried back in time to be factors.
Earlier, Gregory Campbell broke a 2-2 tie at the start of the third period, just seconds after a Boston power play expired. With 2:18 gone, Campbell connected with a 10-foot forehander from the slot after a high Chara slapper was deflected.
The Sabres were handed their second five-on-three power play — this one for a potential 1:43 — when Mark Recchi and Brad Marchand were whistled off within 17 seconds of each other soon after Campbell’s goal. And 1:23 later, Tim Connolly struck for the 3-3 equalizer when he knocked home a goal-line relay from Boyes.
By the 11:26 mark of the second period, the Bruins owned a 2-0 lead and were on the verge of dismissing their old Adams Division rivals. But not so fast.
Only 27 seconds after Recchi deposited the two-goal lead, making good use of the first few seconds after a power play expired, the Sabres put their first on the board when a nimble Tyler Ennis flipped a puck over a fallen Thomas at the right post and watched it ricochet in off Adam McQuaid. Ennis appeared to have no angle on the play, standing on the goal line some 6 feet off the right post, but his pool shot paid off.
A little less than seven minutes later, at 18:52, the Sabres knocked in the 2-2 equalizer on a power play with Kaberle in the box for tripping ex-Boston University star Mike Grier. Ennis keyed the goal, dishing a nifty pass to the front of the crease as he zipped behind the net. Thomas Vanek shoveled off a quick forehander, one that Thomas initially appeared to stop, but the puck dropped straight down and inched over the line off one of Thomas’s skates.
The Bruins had a solid first period, connecting for the only goal when Nathan Horton finished it with a forehand tuck at the right post as Milan Lucic fed straight across the top of the crease from the left side.
“All those penalties kill your momentum,’’ said Marchand. “If you are not out there on the PK, you lose your legs, and at the same time it gives the other team the momentum.’’
Momentum. Right now, the Bruins have none of it.