Recap: Sabres Let Lead Slip Away, Bruins Roar Back to Win

Buffalo got the start they were looking for. The Sabres just couldn’t seal the deal.

Kyle Okposo Ryan O'Reilly and Rasmus Ristolainen, Philadelphia Flyers vs Buffalo Sabres - October 25, 2016 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
The Sabres jumped out to a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes of play, but Boston scored twice in each of the second and third periods to pull out a 4-2 come-from-behind win in Buffalo. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Getting a jump on the competition for the second straight game, Marcus Foligno opened the scoring just 1:32 into the action and Kyle Okposo doubled it with 1:50 left in the opening frame. The Boston Bruins, though, roared back with a vengeance netting a pair of goals in each of the second and third periods to fashion a 4-2 come-from-behind victory over the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center in Buffalo Thursday night.

Ryan Spooner snapped a 2-2 tie with his sixth goal of the season with 3:53 remaining in regulation before adding an empty-net goal with 52 seconds left as the Bruins separated itself in a decisive third period to pull out the win in front of a hostile crowd on the road. David Krejci added a goal and an assist and Patrice Bergeron also scored while Tuukka Rask recovered from early mistakes to stand tall with 31 saves in the triumph.

In a season of missed opportunities, it was yet another game Buffalo let slip away against a division rival.

“The first period was awesome but at the end of the game we just need to get better,” Foligno, who opened the scoring with his fifth of the season, said. “We were mentally ready for this game. Everything was physical and we were ready. It’s frustrating because you have such a good first period and can’t get it going again in the second and third. Bouncing pucks weren’t going our way.”

“It’s tough. These games are playoff hockey games,” Foligno added. “You don’t want to look back at the end of the season and say, ‘Oh, if we had that game against Boston we would have been in the playoffs.’ Right now there’s a terrible taste in your mouth, to lose that game up 2-0. We have a chance to redeem ourselves next game.”

Buffalo drops a game below .500 and into eighth place in the Atlantic Division at 13-14-8 while Boston improves its standing in the division and sits 19-15-4 after the triumph.

“Slow start but the second and third were huge for us,” Spooner said. “It’s kind of a trend here the last two or three games. As a team, not really sure what’s going on. It’s something we need to discuss. The second and third have been great for us but the first period there’s been an issue. I think we just need to put it in the back of our mind and just go out and play.”

After falling behind 2-0 after 20 minutes of play, Bergeron cut the deficit in half 3:20 into the second period before Krejci’s power-play goal with 3:47 left tied the score at 2-2 after two periods of play. Boston came out energized in the second stanza after losing David Backes to an upper-body injury after a hit to the head from William Carrier in the waning moments of the first period. Backes would not return.

Still, the game was there for the taking in the third and final frame before Krejci set up Spooner for the game-winner with just under four minutes remaining in regulation. After letting another lead slip away, Sabres’ coach Dan Bylsma expressed his disappointment behind closed doors before emerging late to address the media.

“Most definitely our best and most emotional first period of the season,” Bylsma said. “It was just how we wanted to come out, just how we wanted to play and there was some energy in that period. Emotion on both sides of the ledger that period. We had some success. We just needed to carry it to get the win.”

There will be no rest for the weary as Buffalo will re-engage the Bruins at TD Bank Place in Boston for a New Year’s Eve 1 pm matinee on Saturday.

“We got a lead, felt a little comfortable and stopped doing the things that made us successful in the first period and gave them a bit of life,” Sabres’ defensemen Josh Gorges said. “You think about it tonight and learn from your mistakes. Each guy in this room has to look in the mirror and see what they need to do better.

“Another huge game Saturday afternoon,” Gorges added. “Tonight is frustrating but the good thing about this game, we get a chance to come back and play the same team again. We got to have a lot more push, a lot more effort but we should be excited about the challenge.”

First Period

A quick strike offense hasn’t exactly been among the Sabres’ top attributes this season but it didn’t stop Marcus Foligno from breaking the ice just 1:32 into the game. The goal ignited the crowd and provided the Sabres a much-needed spark and boost in morale as Foligno converted Jack Eichel’s pass from the corner at 18:28. Matt Moulson also assisted on Foligno’s fifth goal of the season which gave Buffalo a 1-0 lead.

A questionable hit to the head of David Backes by William Carrier woke up the Bruins with 5:07 remaining in the opening frame and things quickly escalated. Sticks and gloves came up as the tune quickly turned chippy after Backes was able to skate off under his own power.

Boston couldn’t convert with the man-advantage, however, and waited for Carrier to serve his two minutes for an illegal hit to the head before sending Adam McQuaid out for revenge. The Bruins veteran went right at the Sabres rookie but Carrier stood up for himself as the two dropped their gloves in a spirited affair. McQuaid, however, was given five for fighting, a 10-minute misconduct and an additional two minutes for instigating that would set up the Sabres’ second goal.

Awarded its third power-play of the first period, Okposo cashed in with a well-placed, pin-point shot labeled the top left corner, though there was some doubt. The puck appeared to hit the back post, cross the goal and carom right back out and the red light never went on signaling a goal on the play. Upon further review, however, on-ice officials confirmed Okposo’s 10th goal of the season assisted by Moulson and Sam Reinhart.

Boston, which was out-shot 16-9 in the opening frame, also lost Backes for the game with what the team is calling an “upper-body” injury.

Second Period

Boston cut the deficit in half just over three minutes into the second period when Patrice Bergeron finished what Brad Marchand and Torey Krug started to make it a 2-1 game. Marchand’s cross-ice pass through traffic found Bergeron all alone camped out at the back door. After scoring 32 last season, the goal was just Bergeron’s sixth goal in 35 games this season.

Boston never stopped attacking and tied the game up at 2-2 when David Krejci converted a backhander after a scrum in front of Robin Lehner with 3:47 remaining in the second period. Buffalo used its coach’s challenge on the play contesting goaltender interference but the goal rightfully stood. Frank Vatrano drew the lone assist on the play for Boston which turned the tables on the Sabres in the second frame, out-shooting its Atlantic Division rival 16-10 to even things up after 40 minutes of play.

Third Period

Ryan Spooner snapped the tie and delivered the go-ahead goal with just under four minutes remaining when he took a pass from Krejci and converted from the top of the slot with 3:53 to play in the third period. Krejci battled in the corners and emerged with the possession of the puck before circling and finding Spooner in position for the one-timer.

After the Sabres pulled goaltender Lehner in favour of an extra attacker, Spooner added his second goal of the game into an empty-net with 52 seconds remaining.

Scoring Summary

First Period

BUF – Marcus Foligno (5) assisted by Jack Eichel and Matt Moulson

BUF – Kyle Okposo PPG (10) assisted by Matt Moulson and Sam Reinhart

Second Period

BOS – Patrice Bergeron (6) assisted by Brad Marchand and Torey Krug

BOS – David Krejci PPG (8) assisted by Frank Vatrano

Third Period

BOS – Ryan Spooner (6) assisted by David Krejci and Frank Vatrano

BOS – Ryan Spooner (7) unassisted

THW Three Stars

First: David Krejci, Bruins (goal, assist)

Second: Ryan Spooner, Bruins (two goals)

Third: Tuukka Rask, Bruins (31 saves)

Next Up:

Buffalo Sabres at Boston Bruins

TD Garden – 1:00 PM EST on Saturday, Dec. 31

Broadcast Channels: MSG, MSG Plus, MSG-Western New York, NESN

2016-17 Season Series: Fourth and final matchup of the season