Patrice Bergeron had a pair of goals, Brad Marchand had three assists and Jaroslav Halak had his 50th career shutout in the Boston Bruins’, 3-0, victory over the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Friday.
Bergeron, in the meantime, is the fifth player in Bruins history to score multiple goals in at least three straight games and the first since Cam Neely did so in the 1988-89 season (three games).
Halak (9-3-4 record, 2.22 goals against average, .928 save percentage in 16 games played) made 26 saves on 26 shots against for his 3rd shutout of the season in the win.
Sabres goaltender, Linus Ullmark (11-9-3, 2.79 GAA, .914 SV% in 23 games played) stopped 22 out of 24 shots faced (.917 SV%) in the loss.
Boston improved to 23-7-9 (55 points) and remained atop the Atlantic Division standings, while Buffalo fell to 17-15-7 (41 points) on the season, but remained in 5th place in the Atlantic.
The Bruins also improved to 10-6-1 on the road this season and have won back-to-back games.
The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), Torey Krug (undisclosed) and Charlie McAvoy (undisclosed) on Friday.
B’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, informed reporters ahead of the game on Friday that McAvoy is considered “day-to-day” and would likely practice on Saturday, then possibly return to the lineup on Sunday.
Krug, on the other hand, was placed on injured reserve in a move made by the organization prior to Cassidy’s updates on his injured defenders.
No. 47 in black and gold is out of the lineup through New Year’s Eve at a minimum (when Boston will be in New Jersey to face the Devils).
As a result, Steven Kampfer was recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL) on an emergency basis. Kampfer had no points in four games with Boston prior to being assigned to Providence, where the 31-year-old veteran has four assists in six games this season.
With Zdeno Chara (infection) back in the lineup after missing Monday night’s, 7-3, win over the Washington Capitals, Kampfer slid in on the third defensive pairing with John Moore at the left side, while Matt Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton moved up to the second pairing.
Brandon Carlo was bumped up to the right side of the first defensive pairing with Chara at his left.
Chara returned to action after having minor surgery to take out the plates originally put in his jaw after sustaining a broken jaw in Game 4 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final in June.
Cassidy made one change to the lineup among his forwards– replacing Brett Ritchie on the fourth line with Chris Wagner.
As a result, Ritchie joined David Backes as the only healthy scratches for Boston against the Sabres in Buffalo.
David Pastrnak trailed behind Jack Eichel and hooked the Sabres captain at 6:38 of the first period, presenting Buffalo with the game’s first power play in the process.
The Sabres were not successful on their first skater advantage opportunity of the night and took a penalty of their own 59 seconds after their power play ended.
Buffalo forward, Evan Rodrigues, was charged with holding against Kampfer at 9:37 and the Bruins went on their first power play of the game as a result.
Boston did not capitalize on the ensuing skater advantage.
Late in the period, former Bruin, Marcus Johansson, was guilty of holding Charlie Coyle and assessed a minor penalty at 19:31.
This time around, the Bruins managed to convert on the skater advantage with a power play goal just seven seconds into the special teams play.
Bergeron (16) drew the puck back to the point off the faceoff, which then sent the rubber biscuit over to Marchand, then Pastrnak and finally back to Bergeron for the one-timer goal with Ullmark out of position and a mostly empty net behind the Buffalo netminder.
Pastrnak (27) and Marchand (36) notched the assists on Bergeron’s power play goal and the B’s led, 1-0, at 19:38 of the first period.
Entering the first intermission, Boston carried the, 1-0, lead into the dressing rooms despite trailing in shots on goal, 11-8.
Buffalo also held the advantage in takeaways (4-1) and giveaways (3-1), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (4-0) and hits (5-4) after one period of play.
Both teams were even in faceoff win percentage (50-50), while the Sabres were 0/1 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/2 entering the second period.
Late in the middle frame, Brandon Montour was charged with holding against Marchand at 14:41 of the second period, resulting in another power play for Boston.
Though the B’s did not score on their third skater advantage of the night, the Bruins did generate further momentum on their side in what was a dominant period for Boston.
Moments later, Boston’s “Perfection Line” went to work on a tic-toc-goal style play that led to Pastrnak stripping the puck from Sabres forward, Jimmy Vesey, and working it to Marchand, then over to Bergeron (17) for his second goal of the night and the, 2-0, lead at 18:26 of the second period.
Marchand (37) and Pastrnak (28) each picked up their second assists of the night as Bergeron tallied his 44th career two-goal game while crashing the net on a 2-on-1 with Marchand.
Through 40 minutes of action in Buffalo, the B’s led the Sabres, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 20-16, in shots on goal– including a, 12-5, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.
The Bruins also held the advantage in blocked shots (7-1), hits (9-6) and faceoff win% (57-43) after two periods, while Buffalo led in takeaways (6-2) and giveaways (8-4).
The Sabres were 0/1 on the skater advantage, while Boston was 1/3 on the power play heading into the final frame of regulation.
Early in the final frame, Clifton leveled Sam Reinhart with an open-ice hit near the boards that was perhaps a second late after Reinhart had released control of the puck.
As a result, Reinhart invited Clifton to square dance after the whistle and the two players dropped the gloves, exchanged punches and pleasantries, but only received matching roughing minors at 5:12 of the third period.
About a couple of minutes later, Ullmark tripped Clifton as the Bruins defender drove to the net with speed and tried to wrap the puck around the Buffalo goaltender in the slot.
Kyle Okposo served Ullmark’s tripping minor at 7:59 and Boston went on the power play.
Boston’s skater advantage was short lived, however, as Danton Heinen was bumped into the Sabres goaltender, who promptly fell to the ice and yielded a goaltender interference infraction as a result.
Heinen cut a rut to the box at 8:49, leaving a short span of 4-on-4 action before Buffalo had an abbreviated power play.
The Sabres were unsuccessful on the advantage and the Bruins remained in control of the game.
With about three minutes remaining in the game, Buffalo’s head coach, Ralph Krueger, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but his intentions did not bode well.
Marchand worked the puck from the boards in Boston’s own zone over to Coyle, who skated the puck into the neutral zone and setup Carlo (4) for a breakaway that led to his second goal in four games as Carlo buried the puck into the open twine.
Coyle (13) and Marchand (38) were credited with the assists on Carlo’s empty net goal as the Bruins sealed the deal on a, 3-0, win at 18:06 of the third period.
At the final horn, Halak and his teammates had shutout the Sabres, 3-0, despite finishing the night trailing in shots on goal, 26-25.
Buffalo managed to have a, 10-5, advantage in shots on net in the third period alone and finished Friday’s effort leading in giveaways, 11-7, but Boston’s effort was too much for the Sabres.
The Bruins left KeyBank Center with the victory and the advantage in blocked shots (15-4), hits (16-10) and faceoff win% (57-43).
The Sabres went 0/2 on the power play, while the B’s went 1/4.
Boston improved to 16-5-5 when scoring first, 14-3-1 when leading after the first period and 13-0-3 when leading after two periods this season.
The Bruins return home for the second part of their home-and-home with the Sabres on Sunday (Dec. 29th) before wrapping up the month of December (and 2019 as a whole) in New Jersey on New Year’s Eve for a matinee matchup with the Devils.