After giving up the game’s first goal, the Boston Bruins pounded the Buffalo Sabres into submission with five unanswered goals and 47 shots on net in a, 5-1, victory at KeyBank Center Wednesday night.
Jeremy Swayman (6-3-0, 2.23 goals-against average, .914 save percentage in nine games played) made 24 saves on 25 shots faced in the win.
Meanwhile, Sabres goaltender, Aaron Dell (0-4-0, 4.57 goals-against average, .862 save percentage in five games played), made 18 saves on 22 shots against before being replaced by Dustin Tokarski (3-4-2, 3.27 goals-against average, .904 save percentage in 11 games played) after the first period.
Tokarski turned aside 24 out of 25 shots faced in relief of Dell for no decision.
The Bruins improved to 10-6-0 (20 points) on the season, but stuck in 5th place in the Atlantic Division as the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets all won their respective matchups on Wednesday night– keeping Boston out of a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference as the season reaches the American Thanksgiving benchmark for gauging success.
Teams that are in playoff position by the time American Thanksgiving rolls around tend to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs about 78% of the time.
As for the Sabres, they dropped to 7-10-2 (16 points) overall and stuck behind the Bruins in the Atlantic, sitting in 6th place in the division.
The B’s also improved to 2-0-0 against Buffalo this season with two more matchups against the upstate New York based club on Jan. 1st and April 28th (each remaining game is at TD Garden in Boston).
Trent Frederic (upper body) remained out of the lineup for Boston on Wednesday, while Linus Ullmark was relegated to the role of the backup goaltender after tweaking something during morning skate.
Other than that, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made one minor change to his lineup– promoting Matt Grzelcyk up to the first defensive pairing with Charlie McAvoy and relegating Derek Forbort to the second pairing alongside Brandon Carlo.
Connor Clifton and Karson Kuhlman served as healthy scratches for the B’s in Buffalo.
Jakub Zboril opened the action with a cross checking infraction at 2:25 of the first period when he knocked down John Hayden in front of Boston’s own net.
The Sabres, however, weren’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage.
After David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand couldn’t connect on a 2-on-1 opportunity in the other end (Marchand failed to corral a rebound), Kyle Okposo (5) received a pass from Rasmus Asplund while entering Buffalo’s attacking zone and wiring a shot through Patrice Bergeron’s legs over Swayman’s blocker side as the Bruins captain inadvertently screened his own goaltender.
Asplund (7) had the only assist on Okposo’s goal and the Sabres led, 1-0, on the scoreboard at 10:56 of the first period.
A few minutes later, though, Bergeron (7) pounced on a rebound and elevated a backhand shot over Dell while the Buffalo netminder was sprawled out in desperation to snag the puck and cover it up for a faceoff in his own zone.
Pastrnak (11) and Marchand (13) tallied the assists on Bergeron’s goal and the Bruins tied it, 1-1, at 13:29.
51 seconds later, Boston took the lead and started to run away with the rest of the night as Charlie Coyle (6) sent a shot over Dell’s glove on the short side and under the crossbar to put the B’s ahead, 2-1, at 14:20.
Nick Foligno (2) had the only assist on Coyle’s goal, which matched his season total (six goals) from 2020-21, in 35 fewer games.
About a minute later, Rasmus Dahlin hooked Pastrnak and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the night at 15:30 of the first period.
It only took Boston 69 seconds on the skater advantage to find the back of the net on a patented one-timer under the blocker from Pastrnak (6) at the faceoff dot to Dell’s right side to extend the Bruins’ lead to two-goals.
McAvoy (10) and Bergeron (8) tallied the assists on Pastrnak’s power-play goal and the B’s took a, 3-1, lead at 16:59.
With one minute remaining before the start of the first intermission, Zboril sent a puck towards the net that deflected off of his own teammate (Foligno) before Mike Reilly (2) pinched in from the point for the goal on the mostly empty twine to make it, 4-1, Boston.
Foligno (3) and Zboril (3) notched the assists at 19:00 of the first period.
After 20 minutes of play, the Bruins carried a, 4-1, lead into the dressing room and a, 22-8, advantage in shots on goal.
Buffalo held the advantage in takeaways (2-1) and giveaways (4-0), while Boston led in hits (11-7) and faceoff win percentage (71-29).
Both teams had three blocked shots each.
The Sabres were 0/1 and the Bruins were 1/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.
Sabres head coach, Don Granato, replaced Dell with Tokarski ahead of the second period after Dell allowed four goals against in the opening frame on 22 shots faced.
Less than a couple minutes into the second period, Foligno and former Bruins defender, Colin Miller, became entangled in a battle as the puck went the other way, yielding an exchange of fisticuffs between Foligno and Miller and resulting five-minute majors for fighting at 1:42.
It was the fourth fighting major for Boston this season (and first since McAvoy fought Joel Farabee in Philadelphia on Nov. 20th).
Midway through the second period, Forbort tripped up Hayden and the on-ice officials deemed a penalty shot would suffice as a result.
Hayden skated in towards Swayman, but the Bruins netminder made the routine stop as though it were a regular breakaway in the first penalty shot that he faced in his young National Hockey League career.
Not much else happened after that in terms of scoring and penalties as neither team hit the back of the net or served an infraction other than Foligno and Miller’s majors for fighting in the second period.
Through two periods, the Bruins held onto a, 4-1, lead, as well as a, 29-22, advantage in shots on goal, despite Buffalo outshooting Boston, 14-7, in the second period alone.
The B’s led in blocked shots (7-6), hits (22-14) and faceoff win% (66-34) entering the second intermission, while the Sabres held the advantage in takeaways (6-4) and giveaways (6-2).
Buffalo was 0/2 on the skater advantage, while Boston was still 1/1 on the power play heading into the final frame.
Not too much was happening as the two teams went through the motions until about midway in the third period, when Zemgus Girgensons checked McAvoy along the boards and sent the star Bruins defender into the glass face first.
Girgensons was assessed a major for boarding as McAvoy took an extra minute to get off the ice (presumably with a head injury) and an official review upheld Girgensons’ major infraction and game misconduct, yielding a five-minute power play to the Bruins at 13:46 of the third period.
Arttu Ruotsalainen glided over to the penalty box to serve Girgensons’ major as the B’s went to work on the skater advantage.
About midway in the power play, Coyle setup Craig Smith who tossed a pass over to Taylor Hall (5) for the one-timer power-play goal against his most recent former team– extending Boston’s lead to four goals in the process.
Smith (2) and Coyle (5) had the assists on Hall’s goal as the Bruins pulled ahead, 5-1, at 15:26 of the third period.
The B’s didn’t score on the remainder of Girgensons’ major, but then again, not much else happened after Hall’s goal.
Boston wracked up shots on goal and held the Sabres to just three shots against in the third period alone as the final horn sounded– signaling a, 5-1, win for Swayman and the Bruins.
The Bruins exited the building with the advantage in shots on goal, 47-25, including an, 18-3, advantage in the third period alone, as well as the lead in hits (27-18) and faceoff win% (69-31).
Buffalo left their own rink with the lead in giveaways (8-4), while both teams recorded 10 blocked shots apiece.
The Sabres went 0/1 and the Bruins went 2/3 on the power play in Wednesday’s effort.
After the game, Cassidy told reporters that McAvoy “[was] good” and received some stitches but won’t know that much more until Thursday as it would depend on if “[McAvoy] wakes up feeling good tomorrow and is ready to go Friday.”
Boston improved to 3-3-0 (1-2-0 on the road) when allowing the game’s first goal, 8-0-0 (4-0-0 on the road) when leading after the first period and 7-1-0 (4-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.
Buffalo fell to 5-4-1 (3-2-0 at home) when scoring first, 2-6-1 (2-3-1 at home) when trailing after one and 0-7-0 (0-5-0 at home) when trailing after the second period in 2021-22.
The Bruins finish the month of November with a three-game homestand starting with Friday’s matinee matchup with the New York Rangers on ABC in the 2021 NHL Thanksgiving Showdown before hosting the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday (Nov. 28th) and Detroit Red Wings next Tuesday (Nov. 30th).