It was nearly a three-month wait, but the Buffalo Sabres at last extracted a measure of revenge on the Boston Bruins through a 6-0 shutout inside of First Niagara Center.
The win was Buffalo’s second in a row following their comeback victory Saturday night on Long Island, and the NHL head coaching debut of Sabres assistant coach James Patrick. Head coach Lindy Ruff watched on from the coach’s box after sustaining three broken ribs in accidental collision with Jordan Leopold during practice on Monday.
The mood was set early on when Cody McCormick and Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves just 2:26 in the game and threw bombs at one another. It was the first of several melees throughout the hard-boiled contest.
Less than four minutes after the initial brawl, the Sabres gained the edge with their first of six goals on the night. Christian Ehrhoff launched a shot nearly from behind the blue line, which bounced off Gregory Campbell’s stick and into the top corner past Bruin’s backup netminder Tuukka Rask.
Buffalo struck again at 14:49 of the first. Ville Leino neared the left corner of the Boston zone before stopping on a dime and performing a spin-around shot towards the net. Sabres captain Jason Pominville found his way to the crease and backhanded the puck into the Boston net for his 18th goal of the season.
The Sabres added their third early in the second period. Before two minutes had passed, Tyler Ennis weaved through a cluster of Bruins players and fired a shot which caromed off the pipe, off Rask’s leg, and into the net. The goal prompted a goaltender change for the Bruins, who took out Rask in favor of Tim Thomas.
It provided little spark for Boston, who still couldn’t solve Ryan Miller and didn’t halt the Sabres’ offensive onslaught. With under two minutes to go in the period, Patrick Kaleta notched his fifth goal of the season when an odd-angled shot deflected off Adam McQuaid’s stick and through Thomas’s legs.
Buffalo tallied their fifth after a mere 1:18 in the third period. Continued pressure by the Sabres in the Boston zone resulted in Pominville backhanding the puck past Thomas as he camped a few feet from the crease, giving him his second goal of the night.
With barely a minute left in the game, Nathan Gerbe forced a turnover behind the Boston net. Ennis got Thomas to sprawl on the ice before sending an effortless pass to Drew Stafford, who tapped it in for his ninth of the year.
Interspersed throughout the goals was an additional pair of fights, and a larger melee. Just a few minutes before Buffalo’s second goal, Kaleta gave a brief, but gutsy performance against the notorious Milan Lucic. Thornton leapt into another scrum in the last minute of the second period, taking on Mike Weber in a one-sided affair that went Thornton’s way. Paul Gaustad, Kaleta, Lucic and McQuaid all ventured to the locker rooms after a scuffle which came about with under three minutes left in the contest.
The grit proved no boost to the Bruins, who failed to beat Miller on 36 shots. They appeared to score a goal early in the first after a shot deflected off Lucic into the Buffalo net, but the play was waved off by a questionable incidental contact (by Boston on Miller) call.
The shutout was the third this year for Miller, and the 25th of his NHL career. Five different Sabres notched a goal on the night and 11 recorded a point. The six goals which Buffalo scored ties with their 6-5 Overtime victory over the Winnipeg Jets back on November 8th for their most in one game this season.
The Sabres will return to the ice this Friday inside First Niagara Center to meet with the Dallas Stars. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 EST.