3 Takeaways From Bruins’ 4-3 Overtime Loss to Sabres

If you play with fire long enough, you’re due to get burned. The Boston Bruins have been playing with fire lately without being burned. That all changed on New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31) against the Buffalo Sabres at the TD Garden.

Buffalo entered the game-winner of five straight and took advantage of some of the mistakes the Bruins made, something that the New Jersey Devils didn’t do on Dec. 28 in a 3-1 Boston victory, and battled back from multiple deficits for a 4-3 overtime win. It was a frustrating loss for the Black and Gold who drop to a league-best, 28-4-4, and 18-0-3 on home ice. Here are three takeaways from Buffalo’s sixth straight win and they are becoming the team in the NHL that no one wants to see on their schedule.

Swayman Outplayed by Luukkonen

There are times in a game when you need your goalie to make a save and for the Bruins, Jeremy Swayman was not able to do that, while Buffalo’s Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen did it multiple times. In fact, Luukkonen’s effort was a big reason why the Sabres were able to battle back and get the extra point.

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Buffalo took a 2-1 lead into the third period before the Bruins tied the game on a Patrice Bergeron power play goal and took the lead on a Brad Marchand goal and then had a golden opportunity to seal the game in the final 10 minutes. JJ Peterka was called for a high-sticking double-minor and four seconds into the power play, Ilya Lyubushkin was called for another high-sticking minor. The Bruins power play, which has struggled in the three games following the three-day holiday break, was stoned by Luukkonen. David Pastrnak was stopped twice at point-blank range, one on a breakaway, and then Bergeron and Marchand were also stopped on shots from the slot. A goal there probably gives the Black and Gold enough separation, but instead, they Buffalo around and took full advantage.

Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins
Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

After Luukkonen was pulled for an extra skater, the Sabres tied the game when Dylan Cozens, who came on the ice as the extra skater, got to a loose puck on a dump-in and one-timed a shot through Swayman’s arm that found its way into the net with 1:37 left in the game. That’s a spot where the Bruins need a save. Swayman finished with 21 saves and Luukkonen finished with 37, but he made 17 huge saves in the third period that allowed his teammates a chance and they picked up their goalie.

Bruins Lacked Depth Scoring

Once again, it was the Bruins stars that provided the offense with Pastrnak and Marchand each collecting a goal and an assist, while Bergeron scored on the power play. David Krejci had two assists and Pavel Zacha had one, but the top-six for Boston combined for 24 of their 40 shots on the net and they did not get much from their bottom six.

In previous games, the bottom six has picked up the slack with Nick Foligno scoring the game-winning goal against the Winnipeg Jets on Dec. 22 and Tret Frederic scoring the first goal against the Devils on Dec. 28. It’s not like the bottom six didn’t have opportunities either. After Bergeron tied the game, Frederic had two chances and came up empty. He was alone at the top of the crease and had an open net, but redirected the pass from Charlie Coyle wide. Later in the shift, he again was at the top of the crease and his rebound attempt of a shot by Taylor Hall was stopped by Luukkonen.

Buffalo entered the game as the league’s top-scoring offense averaging 4.00 goals a game and they hit that number exactly. Once a push-over, the Sabres are an up-and-coming team that’s going to be tough to play over the second half of the season.

Tage Thompson & Alex Tuch Do in Bruins

One of the more exciting younger players in the NHL is Tage Thompson and the Sabres’ leading scorer with 26 goals entering the game didn’t take long to find the back of the net. With the Bruins leading 1-0 in the first period, Thompson took advantage of a turnover in the defensive end by Boston and used every inch of his 6-foot-6 frame to beat Swayman by wrapping the puck around the sprawling goalie.

Tage Thompson, Buffalo Sabres
Tage Thompson, Buffalo Sabres (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Tuch is having a terrific season and he had a hand in each of the Sabres’ goals. He assisted on Thompson and Cozens’ goals, and gave Buffalo a second-period lead on a breakaway when he beat Swayman inside the far post. In overtime, he scored the game-winning goal when he toe-dragged around Bergeron and his shot deflected off of Bergeron’s stick and fluttered into the net for the win. Both players are young and are good building blocks for the future for coach Don Granato.

It was another game where the Bruins held a late lead at home, only to allow a goal and lose in extra time. Against the Los Angeles Kings on Dec.15, the Black and Gold led 2-0 in the third period, only to allow two goals, including the tying goal with under three minutes left to lose in a shootout. Now the Bruins turn their attention to the Winter Classic on Jan. 2 at Fenway Park against the Pittsburgh Penguins, before heading out West for a three-game road trip.

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