A home-and-home series between division rivals in the NHL usually results in good, physical hockey games. When the Bruins and Sabres met on Thursday, there was plenty of hits and goals for any fan to enjoy. The same style of play was expected in their second game, and the two rivals did not disappoint the fans at the TD Garden.
Matinee matchups have a tendency to start off slow, but Boston got on the board early. Zdeno Chara started a transition play after good defensive work in his zone. The play resulted in Frank Vatrano scoring his second of the year just 1:28 into the period.
The visiting Sabres struggled to find their legs early on. When Johan Larsson took a huge hit from Adam McQuaid, Buffalo seemed to wake up a bit. The game turned more physical which enabled the Sabres to generate more offense. Unfortunately, Larsson did not return after the collision with McQuaid.
Then Chara sets up Vatrano, who snipes and lassos pic.twitter.com/sTtisL6HCB
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 31, 2016
Buffalo’s best scoring chances came during a long 5 on 3 power play. A few good shots found Tuukka Rask, but he was able to turn everything aside. By the end of the period, Buffalo had tallied five shots on net.
Boston generated their offense by taking the puck out wide and entering the offensive zone with speed. Pucks were thrown to the net often as they were able to create dangerous scoring chances. They will look to add to their lead in the second period.
Both clubs came out much stronger and faster to start the second period. The first few minutes of the period saw a lot of back and forth action with both teams registering good shots. It was only a matter of time before a puck found the back of the net.
Patrice Bergeron was able to extend the Bruins’ lead on a power play goal about seven minutes into the frame. Roughly two minutes after Bergeron’s goal, Tim Schaller extended the lead to three. Schaller came down the wing with speed and took an off-angle backhand shot that squeaked past Robin Lehner.
Following Schaller’s goal, the game turned physical once again. Evander Kane attempted to boost the Sabres by fighting Kevan Miller, but it was broken up by the referee. As a result, Kane received a 10-minute misconduct and missed the rest of the period.
The visitors were desperate to get some momentum rolling in this game. Naturally, they turned to their star player, Jack Eichel. Eichel scored with 21 seconds left on a hard one-time shot from the top of the circle. It was a much-needed momentum boost heading into the third.
After a late goal in the second period, the Sabres were expected to come out firing in the third to keep their momentum rolling. This did not happen though and the period got off to a very slow start. In the first seven minutes the game was slowed numerous times for icing.
It took a power play opportunity for the visiting team before the period gained any sort of rhythm. On the power play, Eichel took control of his unit. Looking for an open man, he found Kyle Okposo for a great scoring opportunity. Okposo’s shot ended up ringing the post, in what would have been a game-changing goal.
Throughout the rest of the period, the Sabres found it difficult to press in the offensive zone. The Boston defense was able to keep the attackers to the outside and not many plays were able to be made in the middle. Despite the best efforts of Eichel to get offense going, Buffalo was not able to cut the lead down.
At the final buzzer, it was the Bruins coming away with a 3-1 victory. The victory secures a season sweep of the Buffalo Sabres and gives Boston much-needed win at home. Lehner registered 25 saves while Rask ended with 26 saves of his own.
Home-and-home vs Buffalo couldn't have come at better time for B's. Cap off a four game season sweep w/a 3-1 win this afternoon at TD Garden
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) December 31, 2016
BOS-Frank Vatrano (2) assisted by Zdeno Chara (7)
BOS- Patrice Bergeron (7) PPG assisted by Ryan Spooner (12) and Brad Marchand (21)
BOS-Tim Schaller (5) assisted by Torey Krug (20) and Austin Czarnik (6)
BUF-Jack Eichel (7) assisted by Rasmus Ristolainen (22) and Sam Reinhart (14)
THW THREE STARS
First: Patrice Bergeron (one goal)
Second: Jack Eichel (one goal)
Third: Zdeno Chara (one assist)
Boston Bruins at New Jersey Devils
Prudential Center-7:00 p.m. E.S.T
Broadcast Channels-NESN, SN, MSG+, 98.5 The Sports Hub
2016-17 Season Series: Bruins Lead 1-0
Buffalo Sabres at New York Rangers
Madison Square Garden-7:00 p.m. E.S.T
Broadcast Channels-NBCSN, MSG
2016-17 Season Series: First Meeting of the Season
Anthony Pagliarulo is a Boston Bruins contributor for The Hockey Writers. He is a Massachusetts native and a Worcester State University alumni. You can follow Anthony on Twitter @APags87.