Thursday night was rivalry night at the First Niagara Center, as the Buffalo Sabres hosted the Boston Bruins.
From the opening faceoff, it was clear that the Bruins were a much more talented squad. Throughout the early parts of the first, Boston kept Buffalo hemmed in their own zone. When that was not happening, it was Buffalo giving the puck away, leading to more offensive pressure from Boston.
At 3:37 in the first, Buffalo would take strides towards changing that, when Marcus Foligno fought Matt Fraser. Not only did it seem to inspire the Sabres, but it seemed to inspire the First Niagara Center fans.
The period would slow down, until the Sabres found themselves on the power play. Buffalo was able to increase their offensive pressure with the man-advantage, and despite great chances, no goals were scored.
Things would change for Buffalo, following a holding penalty to Mike Weber.
Buffalo would attempt to clear the puck, when it bounced passed a Bruins defender and out of the zone. Brian Flynn grabbed the puck and was off to the races. Seconds later, Flynn would deposit a beautiful backhand over the left shoulder of Bruins goaltender Chad Johnson.
“He (Flynn) has a quiet demeanor about him,” said Ted Nolan. “Sometimes you don’t know he’s at practice because he’s so quiet, but he was sure loud tonight the way he played.”
Buffalo would be up 1-0, on Flynn’s 3rd goal of the season, at 16:27. It was also Buffalo’s first shorthanded goal since April 12, 2013, which was also by Flynn.
Following 20 minutes, the Sabres would find themselves and the crowd energized heading into the second period.
The second began rather poorly for the Sabres. After quickly getting on the power play, Buffalo would find themselves coughing up the lead.
It began with Brad Marchand. Instead of a simple clearing attempt, Marchand skated down the wing with the puck in tow. As Marchand entered the zone, he approached and then took a shot. It would be Marchand’s 6th goal of the season that tied the game.
Buffalo’s terrible period would not stop there. Less than two minutes later, Boston continued to pressure offensively with their newly found momentum. At 3:04 in the second, Brad Marchand would put home his second goal of the night, 7th of the season, to put Boston up 2-1.
Fortune would change for Buffalo late in the third period.
As the Sabres were crashing the net, Marcus Foligno parked himself right next to the net. Jamie McBain shot the puck from front of the net, but it began drifting wide. Foligno, still parked at the net, found himself in the right place at the right time. McBain’s shot would ricochet off of the crest on Foligno’s sweater, and in. Foligno’s goal was his 5th of the season, and 2nd for the Sabres.
“It was good to contribute offensively,” said Foligno. “Now is the time for me to forget this game and be consistent. Next game they’ll be a lot better.”
The game headed into the third period, all knotted up at 2. The Sabres would need to win a period, in order to win a the game.
Buffalo came out in the beginning of the third, working their tails off. This was no more evident than when they drew a hooking penalty after attempting to gain control in front of the Bruins’ net. While Buffalo was unsuccessful on the ensuing power play, their tempo of play was headed in the right direction.
Unfortunately, that positive tempo dissipated just around halfway through the period. Buffalo went from pressuring in their offensive zone at a solid pace, to defending their defensive zone for multiple shifts at a time.
As seen before in this game, the Sabres would transition from bad play to good play.
Drew Stafford was the first part of the transition from bad to good. Stafford took the puck on the rush down the wing, into the Bruins zone. Instead of passing, Stafford skated around the net, and snapped the puck in on a beautiful wrap around. Stafford cleanly had Johnson beat. This was Stafford’s 3rd goal of the season at 14:19, and third of the game for Buffalo. Stafford’s goal also moved him the 23rd all-time in Sabres history (123 goals).
“To be able to get one there to help contribute to a win made it (the win) better,” Stafford said.
The second, and final part, of the bad-to-good transition involved Brian Flynn and Tyler Myers.
Late in the third, Flynn and Myers were apart of a 3-on-2 rush, when Flynn patiently waited and passed the puck back to Myers.
Myers then proceeded to put the puck home, for his 3rd of the season and the fourth Sabres goal of the game.
“It was a big character win for us,” said Myers. “We just have to make sure we stay consistent with that play.”
Buffalo would go on to win this game by a 4-2 score.
“We’re playing pretty similar to when we were losing,” Brian Flynn said. “We’re gaining more confidence.”
This win puts the Sabres at 9-23-3 on the season, with 21 points.
The Sabres head to Boston to take on the Bruins this Saturday night at the TD Bank Garden, in the second half of the home-and-home series. Puck drops shortly after 7 PM and the game will be broadcast on MSG.