The Sabres needed two points tonight. Another loss to Northeast Division rival Boston Bruins would have put them ten points out of a playoff spot. Instead, the Sabres found themselves only six points out at the final horn, after a gritty win inside HSBC Arena.
All signs pointed to a tough contest with how the first period played out. After twenty minutes the two teams combined for 32 shots, but the score stood at 1-1 thanks to strong goaltending on the part of Ryan Miller and Tuukka Rask.
The first two goals both came with under three minutes left in the opening period. Boston put one on the board after the Sabres spent too much time skating about in their zone, and allowed David Krejci to get free and fire one into the net.
Less than two minutes later, Buffalo went on the Power Play. In what was a mad scramble at the net, Derek Roy shot one off the crossbar, and the puck fell right next to Drew Stafford who stuffed it behind Rask.
The second period featured no scoring to speak of, with the two goaltenders effectively fending off whatever shots came their way.
Boston found itself back in the lead early in the third period after the Sabres took two penalties in the first six minutes. Michael Ryder managed to break into the Sabres zone and slip it behind Miller after he got the goalie down on the ice. The Buffalo benched screamed at the referees to call the play offside, but their petitions fell on deaf ears with the officials.
Thirty-two seconds later, the Sabres employed their own rush into the Boston end, and Stafford notched his second goal of the night off a pass from Roy. The Sabres would then take their first lead of the night at 10:55 during a Power Play as Stafford caught a rebound that went behind Rask and tapped it in to complete his hat trick.
Despite taking another penalty with under two minutes left in the game, Boston continued to apply pressure in the Sabres zone. With Rask on the bench and the team’s playing an even 5-on-5, Boston created a couple of scoring opportunities for themselves while the clock ticked down, but ultimately could not tie it up before the final buzzer.
A scuffle occurred after the game ended when Boston Captain Zdeno Chara poked Miller with his stick as he began to leave the ice. Paul Gaustad quickly came to respond and soon everybody who was on the ice at that time jumped into the mix. The scrum was broken up shortly after and both teams skated to their respective locker rooms without serious incident.
Once again it was a huge return for Stafford, who played for the first time in four games due to injury. The last contest he played in was against the Columbus Blue Jackets on December 3rd, when he tallied a goal and added an assist after being out of the lineup for over a month.
There’s no special honor for it, and it doesn’t get fans to toss anything onto the ice, but it should be noted that Derek Roy had the primary assist for all three of Buffalo’s goals tonight. The two that he landed on the Power Play brings his season total to 11 Power Play assists.