Rask, Bruins fall flat
Sabres deliver season’s worst loss
BUFFALO - Flat. Flatter. Flattest. And forget it.
Such was the Bruins’ visit here last night, which turned into their worst beating of the season, a 6-0 hammering at the hands of the stumbling Sabres before a sellout crowd of 18,690 at the First Niagara Center.
Buffalo, paced by a pair of goals by captain Jason Pominville, posted two goals in each period and handed the Bruins their third loss in four outings. It also was the 11th time in 12 games that the defending Cup champs failed to take a lead into the final period.
“We went from good to bad to worse,’’ said Boston coach Claude Julien. “Basically, that’s what happened.’’
Prior to last night, the Bruins had not lost this season by more than three goals. It also was their worst loss since an 8-2 drubbing from the Maple Leafs on March 6, 2008.
The Bruins are 5-6-1 in their last dozen games, their worst work since their no-show October of 3-7-0. With just over two weeks to go prior to the Feb. 27 trade deadline, no telling how the recent malaise will influence general manager Peter Chiarelli’s attempts to make a deal. He has been looking to add depth at offense and defense, but a game like last night’s, with how the club has played for nearly a month, could prompt him to try to come up with a deal of greater impact.
After falling behind by a pair of goals in the first period, the night got away from the Bruins in the second when the Sabres added another pair of goals and chased starting goalie Tuukka Rask.
“We needed saves there, and we didn’t get them tonight,’’ said Julien, noting how the 2-0 and 3-0 strikes essentially sealed his club’s fate. “That was a big hole to come back from. From there, our guys got away from our game plan and it got worse.’’
Rask, 0-2-1 in his previous three starts, was yanked with only 1:52 gone in the period after a backhanded shovel by Tyler Ennis eluded him near the right post and slipped into the net for the 3-0 lead. In came Tim Thomas, who gave up three more goals on 19 shots.
“I wasn’t at my best,’’ acknowledged Rask. “On the same hand, there were some tough ones . . . their second goal [Pominville’s first] was a good shot off a pass. And the third hit a post and got by me. When Timmy came in, I just said, ‘Hey, my bad.’ That’s a tough spot for someone to take over.’’
Thomas, who last season won his second Vezina Trophy in three years, looked a bit wobbly when Patrick Kaleta wristed home the 4-0 lead at 18:11. The shot from the left circle was stoppable, but Thomas, in a rare error, allowed it to beat him through a wide-open five-hole.
The Bruins won the fights, two of them, in the first period - but the Sabres did all the scoring. Christian Ehrhoff connected first at 6:23, followed by Pominville at 14:49, and the Sabres carried the two-goal lead into the first break.
“We’re not executing. We’re not playing to our strength,’’ said Patrice Bergeron. “We have to keep things simple, but we’re getting behind too often and putting ourselves behind the eight-ball.’’
The Bruins thought they had the 1-1 equalizer at 8:20 when Milan Lucic deflected home a Chris Kelly shot. But the referees waved off the goal, claiming that Rich Peverley bumped into Sabres goalie Ryan Miller at the top of the crease. A ticky-tack call. And the Bruins never recovered.
“The only contact was their defenseman [Robyn Regehr] trying to hook me,’’ said Peverley. “I didn’t think I touched [Miller], but it doesn’t matter what I think, right?’’
Julien didn’t like the call, but also figured his club had enough time, 51:40 to be exact, to recover.
“My only feeling there is, when you make those calls you have to be 100 percent sure,’’ said Julien. “But if you look at the replay, it’s not even close. But that’s not the reason we lost - it was a heck of a lot more than that.’’
Ehrhoff’s shot, for the 1-0 lead, should have been stopped by Rask, had it been allowed to make it to the net cleanly. However, Rask lost track of the shot when one of his forwards, Gregory Campbell, raised his stick in the slot and deflected it into the net.
Pominville’s first strike came at the right post, the captain cashing in a sweet cross-slot feed by Ville Leino from the bottom of the left circle. Leino rushed toward the goal line, put on the brakes, and then delivered a blind spin-o-rama backhanded feed that found its way through a forest of legs and onto Pominville’s stick for the easy deposit.
Pominville popped in the 5-0 lead with only 1:18 gone in the third. And Drew Stafford made it 6-0 with 1:02 left in regulation.
“This is the stuff that happens to teams at different points of the year,’’ said a philosophical Thomas. “What’s happening to us is nothing new under the sun . . . we just have to handle it to the best of our ability.’’
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.