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Deadline Deals NHL

Analysis: Montour bolsters Panthers depth on defense

The Florida Panthers acquired defender, Brandon Montour, from the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday in exchange for a 2021 3rd round pick.

After Bill Zito cleared Brett Connolly’s cap hit from the books in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday, the Panthers General Manager went to work on solidifying his defense in the wake of Aaron Ekblad’s season-ending injury.

It’s not that Florida is done adding by any means, but they’ll have to continue to get crafty in saving cap space in order to finagle any larger moves.

Montour at least gives them some comfort in the event of a further tattered lineup potentially interfering with what’s shaping up to be their best chance at a deep playoff run in a generation.

Meanwhile, Sabres General Manager, Kevyn Adams, kicked off what’s expected to be a bit of a fire sale for the organization by Monday’s trade deadline.

Montour, 27, had 5-9–14 totals in 38 games with Buffalo this season at the time of the trade on Saturday. He was originally drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2nd round (55th overall) of the 2014 Draft and made his league debut with Anaheim in the 2016-17 season.

He set career highs in goals (9), assists (23) and points (32) in 80 games with the Ducks in 2017-18, and has 29-76–105 totals in 281 career NHL games with Anaheim and Buffalo.

The 6-foot, 194-pound native of Brantford, Ontario has eight points in 21 career Stanley Cup Playoff games (all with Anaheim) and spent parts of his first three seasons with the Ducks until he was traded to the Sabres in the 2018-19 season, where he spent parts of the last three seasons until being traded to the Panthers on Saturday.

Montour carries a $3.850 million cap hit and is a pending-unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

For Buffalo, the 2021 3rd round pick will come in handy either in July at the draft or as part of a package for a bigger and better trade acquisition before then.

Adams now must shift his attention to pieces of his roster like Taylor Hall– a pending-unrestricted free agent with a manageable $8.000 million cap hit that the Sabres could retain 50% of in a deal and try to maximize the hell out of his 2010 1st overall pick value.

Oh and Hall’s a 2017-18 Hart Memorial Trophy winner, despite his 2-17–19 totals in 37 games with Buffalo this season.

The Sabres are terrible all around. That’s not his fault.

But asking for top-notch material in exchange for Hall’s talents based on this season alone is a hard bargain to market for Adams.

Meanwhile, Rasmus Ristolainen is soldiering on in the upstate New York tundra that is Buffalo these days.

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NHL Nick's Net

Smith tops Bruins comeback, 3-2, against Sabres

The Boston Bruins extended the Buffalo Sabres’ current losing streak to 17 games after Craig Smith capped a, 3-2, comeback with his game-winning goal in the third period Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.

Dan Vladar (2-0-0, 1.51 goals-against average, .952 save percentage in two games played) turned aside 25 out of 27 shots against for a .926 save percentage in the win for the Bruins.

Sabres goaltender, Linus Ullmark (5-5-2, 2.49 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 13 games played), returned from injury and made 33 saves on 36 shots faced for a .917 save percentage in the loss.

Boston improved to 17-8-5 (39 points) on the season and remained in command of 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while Buffalo fell to 6-23-4 (16 points) and stuck in last place in the division.

The B’s improved to 2-0-0 against the Sabres this season and 8-3-2 at home in 2020-21.

The Bruins were without the services of Ondrej Kase (upper body), Kevan Miller (knee), Brandon Carlo (upper body), John Moore (hip), Tuukka Rask (upper body), Karson Kuhlman (undisclosed), Sean Kuraly (COVID protocol), Jake DeBrusk (COVID protocol) and Brad Marchand (COVID protocol) on Saturday afternoon.

Kase missed his 28th game this season due to an injury that he sustained on Jan. 16th in New Jersey. Though he is skating before practice, there is no timetable for his return.

Miller and Carlo have been skating as well.

Moore underwent a hip arthroscopy and labral repair on March 22nd in New York City and will miss the rest of the season as recovery time is expected to be five to six months.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, ruled Rask out for the weekend due to a lingering injury that was re-aggravated in Thursday night’s, 4-3, overtime loss to the New York Islanders.

With Kuhlman awaiting results of an MRI after blocking a shot in the third period against the Islanders on Thursday night and Marchand entering COVID protocol, Zach Senyshyn returned to action for Boston for the first time since missing the last five games with an upper body injury.

Trent Frederic suited up on the first line with Bruins captain, Patrice Bergeron, at center and David Pastrnak on right wing.

Cassidy left his second line intact while Senyshyn was inserted on the right side of the third line with Anders Bjork at left wing and Charlie Coyle sporting an “A” at center in light of Marchand’s absence.

Greg McKegg slid over to the left side of the fourth line while Jack Studnicka centered the line and Chris Wagner remained at right wing.

On defense, Cassidy made one change, replacing Jarred Tinordi with Jeremy Lauzon on the third pairing alongside Steven Kampfer.

Lauzon made his return to the lineup for the first time since being injured in the 2021 NHL Outdoors matchup against the Philadelphia Flyers at Lake Tahoe on Feb. 21st. He missed 13 games between his 34-second shift outdoors and Saturday afternoon.

Jaroslav Halak served as Vladar’s backup on Saturday and is expected to get the start on Sunday against New Jersey.

Boston’s long list of healthy scratches, injured players, COVID protocol and taxi squad members on Saturday afternoon included Carlo, Moore, Kase, Rask, Kuraly, Marchand, DeBrusk, Tinordi, Miller, Jack Ahcan and Kuhlman.

Callum Booth was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) from Boston’s taxi squad on Saturday.

Connor Clifton opened the game’s action with an elbowing infraction against Sabres forward, Jeff Skinner, at 1:16 of the first period.

Less than a minute into the ensuing power play, Buffalo capitalized on a giveaway when Vladar misplayed the puck and sent a pass right to Sam Reinhart’s tape from the trapezoid.

Reinhart (12) cut to the front of the empty net while Vladar chased the play and scored a power-play goal to give the Sabres a, 1-0, lead at 2:01 of the first period.

Reinhart’s goal was unassisted.

About a couple minutes later, Brandon Montour tripped Senyshyn and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the afternoon.

Boston did not convert on the resulting skater advantage, however.

Late in the period, Casey Mittelstadt hooked Pastrnak at 14:59 and Pastrnak tripped Dylan Cozens at 18:54, but neither team was successful on the resulting special teams action.

Entering the first intermission, the Sabres led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing Boston in shots on goal, 13-10.

The B’s led in blocked shots (4-2), takeaways (4-1), giveaways (4-2), hits (8-6) and faceoff win percentage (63-38).

Buffalo was 1/2 and Boston was 0/2 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Coyle caught Skinner with a high stick midway through the second period and presented the Sabres with a power play at 7:15, but Buffalo couldn’t score on the resulting advantage.

Moments later, Matt Grzelcyk (2) skated along the blue line in the attacking zone and fired a wrist shot from the high slot– beating Ullmark on the glove side, while Coyle screened the Sabres netminder in front of the crease.

Pastrnak (13) and Bergeron (16) tallied the assists on Grzelcyk’s goal as the Bruins tied the game, 1-1, at 11:41 of the second period.

With the secondary assist on the goal, Bergeron pulled to within three points of tying Rick Middleton for the fourth most in a B’s uniform in franchise history. Bergeron currently has 895 career points with Boston, while Middleton had 898.

The game wasn’t tied for long before Kyle Okposo (2) pocketed a rebound into the twine for his second goal of the season in as many games against the Bruins this season.

Henri Jokiharju (2) and Rasmus Dahlin (11) had the assists on Okposo’s goal as the Sabres pulled ahead, 2-1, at 14:12.

Less than a minute later, Jean-Sebastien Dea caught Coyle with a high stick and was sent to the penalty box with a minor infraction at 15:00 of the second period.

Boston failed to convert on the ensuing power play opportunity.

Through 40 minutes of action at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon, the Sabres led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 24-21, in shots on goal, including a, 14-8, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bruins led in takeaways (5-2), giveaways (8-3), hits (16-10) and faceoff win% (55-45), while both teams had seven blocked shots aside.

Buffalo was 1/3 on the power play, while Boston was 0/3 on the skater advantage entering the second intermission.

Early in the third period, Nick Ritchie (9) pocketed a loose puck from the doorstep behind Ullmark after Charlie McAvoy impressed the fans in attendance with an incredible display of skill– skating around the attacking zone prior to setting up Ritchie for the goal.

McAvoy (17) and Grzelcyk (9) notched the assists on Ritchie’s goal as the Bruins tied the game, 2-2, at 5:22 of the final frame.

Moments later, Montour hooked Smith and was sent to the sin bin at 9:38, but the B’s couldn’t muster anything on the resulting power play.

Late in the period, Smith (6) buried a short pass from David Krejci in the low slot over Ullmark’s glove side to give Boston their first lead of the night, 3-2.

Krejci (17) and Ritchie (8) tallied the assists on Smith’s goal at 16:10 of the third period as the Bruins completed the comeback and held onto the victory at the final horn after Rasmus Ristolainen picked up a goaltender interference minor at 19:35.

Sabres interim head coach, Dom Granato, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker with 1:43 remaining, used his timeout after a stoppage with 40 seconds left and pulled his netminder again to even things up 5-on-5 while Ristolainen was in the box in the dying seconds, but Buffalo was no match for Boston in the end.

The Bruins had won, 3-2, and finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal, 36-27, incluidng a, 15-3, advantage in the third period alone.

Buffalo finished the game leading in blocked shots (11-9), while Boston wrapped up the afternoon leading in hits (23-15) and faceoff win% (57-44).

Both teams finished with eight giveaways each, while the Sabres went 1/3 on the skater advantage and the B’s finished 0/5 on the power play.

Vladar became the eighth goaltender in franchise history to win each of his first two career appearances with the Bruins, joining Rask (2007-08), Tim Thomas (2002-03), Blaine Lacher (1994-95), Mike Moffat (1981-82), John Adams (1972-73), Andre Gill (1967-68) and Frank Brimsek (1938-39) in doing so.

Buffalo, meanwhile, suffered their 17th consecutive loss, which tied the second-most consecutive losses in National Hockey League history, joining the 1974-75 Washington Capitals and 1992-93 San Jose Sharks in trailing the 2003-04 Pittsburgh Penguins for the most consecutive losses in a row (18) in NHL history.

The Sabres face the Philadelphia Flyers at home on Monday, March 29th and look to avoid tying the 2003-04 Penguins for the most consecutive losses.

Cassidy told reporters after the game that Bruins assistant coach Kevin Dean was not behind the bench on Saturday due to coming in close contact with someone that tested positive for COVID-19.

Dean will not be joining his colleagues behind the bench on Sunday, as well.

Boston improved to 5-5-2 (2-3-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal this season, while Buffalo fell to 4-4-2 (3-4-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal this season in the process.

The B’s also improved to 3-5-2 (1-1-0 at home) when trailing after the first period and 3-4-1 (2-2-0 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

The Sabres dropped to 2-3-2 (2-3-1 on the road) when leading after one period and 4-1-2 (3-1-1 on the road) when leading after two periods in 2020-21.

The Bruins welcome the New Jersey Devils on Sunday (5:30 p.m. ET puck drop) before closing out the month of March against the Devils on Tuesday. Boston begins April with a pair of home games against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Boston is 1-0-1 in their current seven-game homestand.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Preview: Game No. 28– Bruins @ Sabres

For the first time this season, the Boston Bruins pay a visit to KeyBank Center to take on the Buffalo Sabres for Hockey Fights Cancer Night in Buffalo.

Last season, Boston went 3-0-0 against Buffalo in the pandemic shortened 2019-20 regular season, winning all three of their matchups, 3-2, on Nov. 21st in Boston, 3-0, on Dec. 27th in Buffalo and, 3-2, on Dec. 29th in Boston.

After Thursday night’s matchup, the two clubs will meet seven more times in 2020-21, including their next meeting on Saturday.

A couple of previous matchups against the Sabres were postponed to later dates in the season due to a plethora of Buffalo players in COVID protocol last month.

A coaching staff member for Buffalo and a Boston skater (Sean Kuraly) were placed in COVID protocol Thursday morning, resulting in both pregame skates being cancelled, but the game remains on schedule through contact tracing, etc.

The Sabres return home after a, 3-2, loss to the Devils in New Jersey and without their now former head coach, Ralph Krueger, who was fired on Wednesday.

Interim head coach Dom Granato was promoted from his position as an assistant coach in Buffalo, where he was hired in that role in 2019. He will be making his National Hockey League head coaching debut on Thursday.

Granato previously served as the head coach of the Columbus Chill (ECHL, 1997-99), head coach of the Peoria Rivermen (ECHL, 1999-2000), head coach of the Worcester IceCats (AHL, 2000-05), an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues (2005-06), head coach of the Chicago Wolves (AHL, parts of two seasons, 2008-09 and 2009-10), head coach of the USA Hockey National Team Development Program (2013-16), assistant coach with the Wisconsin Badgers (NCAA, 2016), assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks (2016-19).

Buffalo, of course, is without their captain, Jack Eichel, due to injury.

Boston, meanwhile, is suffering from a plethora of injuries, rendering Tuukka Rask unavailable for the last five games, which meant that Dan Vladar got his first career NHL start on Tuesday after Jaroslav Halak was handed a, 4-1, loss in Pittsburgh on Monday.

Vladar made 34 saves on 35 shots to backstop the Bruins to a, 2-1, victory against the Penguins in his regular season debut in Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, is likely to tweak his lineup depending on player availability, as well as whether or not Rask will be good to go after missing six games this season due to an undisclosed injury.

Rask did travel with the team as part of their four-game road trip (1-1-0).

Boston will be without Ondrej Kase, Kevan Miller and Jeremy Lauzon, at least, as Kase has no timetable for a return, Miller is skating back in Boston and Lauzon is approaching one month since sustaining a fractured left hand, which takes four-to-six weeks recovery time.

Brandon Carlo, John Moore and Zach Senyshyn will also be out of the lineup for Boston, while Jarred Tinordi is likely to miss Thursday night’s game in Buffalo as well after sustaining an upper body injury on a hit from Pittsburgh’s Brandon Tanev that resulted in a boarding major, as well as a game misconduct and a five-minute power play for Boston.

Thursday marks the halfway point for the Bruins, who are 15-8-4 overall (34 points) and currently 4th place in the MassMutual NHL East Division, while the Sabres begin the second half of their season with a 6-18-4 record (16 points, last in the division).

Boston is 3-2 in overtime and 2-2 in shootouts (5-4 past regulation) this season, while Buffalo is 0-2 in overtime and 2-2 in shootouts (2-4 past regulation) thus far in 2020-21.

Boston is also 8-5-3 in 16 games on the road this season, including a 4-4-2 record in their last ten games, while Buffalo is 2-10-2 on home ice and 0-9-1 in their last ten games.

The B’s are 142-113-29-12 in 296 all-time regular season matchups against Buffalo with 949 goals for and 926 goals against in that span.

The Bruins are also 29-25-1-7 in 62 regular season games at KeyBank Center, though the Sabres have outscored Boston, 175-157, in that span.

Brad Marchand leads the Bruins in scoring with 12-21–33 totals in 27 games, while Patrice Bergeron is second with 25 points in 27 games and David Pastrnak is third with 24 points in 20 games, while leading his teammates in goals scored (13).

Marchand has a team-leading plus-nine rating in 27 games, while Chris Wagner is a minus-eight in 23 games this season.

Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson lead the Sabres in scoring with 19 points in 26 and 28 games, repsectively. Eichel (18 in 21 games) ranks third in scoring, while Reinhart leads the roster in goals scored with 11.

Jake McCabe is a plus-two in 13 games, while Rasmus Dahlin is a minus-27 in 28 games thus far.

If Rask gets the start for Boston, he is one win away from his 300th career NHL win, which would also make him the first goaltender in a Bruins uniform to reach the 300-win plateau.

David Krejci is one point away from his 700th career point and currently eighth all-time in scoring in a Bruins uniform with 699 career points.

Wayne Cashman (793 points) is seventh in all-time scoring with Boston.

Bruins captain, Patrice Bergeron (894 points) is four points away from tying Rick Middleton (898) for the fourth most points in a Boston uniform in franchise history.

The Bruins wrap up their four-game road trip with a Saturday matinee (1 p.m. ET puck drop) in Buffalo before returning home on March 23rd against the New York Islanders in what will be Boston’s first game at TD Garden to feature fans since the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic began last year.

TD Garden will be limited to a 12% seating capacity.

Expected lineups

Boston Bruins

63 Brad Marchand (A) 37 Patrice Bergeron (C) 88 David Pastrnak

74 Jake DeBrusk 46 David Krejci (A) 12 Craig Smith

21 Nick Ritchie 13 Charlie Coyle 62 Oskar Steen

11 Trent Frederic 18 Greg McKegg 83 Karson Kuhlman

48 Matt Grzelcyk 73 Charlie McAvoy

67 Jakub Zboril 75 Connor Clifton

54 Jack Ahcan 44 Steven Kampfer

41 Jaroslav Halak

80 Dan Vladar

Healthy scratches, injured and taxi squad members (officially TBA, below is only a prediction based on last game)

Jeremy Swayman, Anders Bjork, Chris Wagner, Greg McKegg, Zach Senyshyn (upper body), Brandon Carlo (upper body), John Moore (lower body), Ondrej Kase (upper body), Tuukka Rask (lower body), Sean Kuraly (COVID protocol), Jeremy Lauzon (fractured left hand), Urho Vaakanainen, Jarred Tinordi (upper body), Kevan Miller (right knee)

Buffalo Sabres

13 Tobias Rieder 12 Eric Staal 23 Sam Reinhart

4 Taylor Hall 15 Riley Sheahan 72 Tage Thompson

53 Jeff Skinner 27 Curtis Lazar 37 Casey Mittelstadt

68 Victor Olofsson 20 Cody Eakin 21 Kyle Okposo

78 Jacob Bryson 55 Rasmus Ristolainen

44 Matt Irwin 62 Brandon Montour

26 Rasmus Dahlin 33 Colin Miller

40 Carter Hutton

34 Jonas Johansson

Healthy scratches, injured and taxi squad members (officially TBA, below is only a prediction based on last game)

Jack Eichel, Henri Jokiharju, Dylan Cozens

Goaltending stats entering Thursday

Boston Bruins

1 Jeremy Swayman 0-0-0 in 0 GP, 0.00 GAA, .000 SV%, 0 SO

40 Tuukka Rask 8-4-2 in 14 GP, 2.46 GAA, .906 SV%, 0 SO

41 Jaroslav Halak 6-4-2 in 12 GP, 2.15 GAA, .918 SV%, 2 SO

80 Dan Vladar 1-0-0 in 1 GP, 1.00 GAA, .971 SV%, 0 SO

Buffalo Sabres

31 Dustin Tokarski 0-0-0 in 0 GP, 0.00 GAA, .000 SV%, 0 SO

34 Jonas Johansson 0-5-1 in 7 GP, 3.79 GAA, .884 SV%, 0 SO

35 Linus Ullmark 5-4-2 in 12 GP, 2.43 GAA, .919 SV%, 0 SO

40 Carter Hutton 1-9-1 in 11 GP, 3.43 GAA, .884 SV%, 0 SO

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NHL Nick's Net

DeBrusk scores two in Boston’s, 3-2, win over Buffalo

Jake DeBrusk scored a pair of power play goals 18 seconds apart in the Boston Bruins’, 3-2, victory over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Sunday night.

Tuukka Rask (15-4-5 record, 2.31 goals against average, .923 save percentage in 24 games played) made 24 saves on 26 shots against (.923 SV%) in the win for the Bruins.

Sabres goaltender, Linus Ullmark (11-10-3, 2.80 GAA, .913 SV% in 24 games played) stopped 19 out of 22 shots faced for an .864 SV% in the loss.

Boston improved to 24-7-9 (57 points) overall and remained in command of the Atlantic Division, while Buffalo fell to 17-16-7 (41 points) and remained in 6th place in the Atlantic.

The B’s also improved to 14-1-8 at home on the season.

The Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), Torey Krug (undisclosed) and Charlie McAvoy (undisclosed) on Sunday.

Boston’s head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a couple minor changes to his lineup from Friday night’s, 3-0, shutout in Buffalo.

Brett Ritchie returned to the lineup and was reunited with Anders Bjork and Charlie Coyle on the third line, while Sean Kuraly returned to his role as the fourth line center with Joakim Nordstrom on his left wing and Chris Wagner on his right wing.

Par Lindholm joined David Backes in the press box for the B’s as their only healthy scratches against the Sabres on Sunday.

Boston kicked things off with eight skaters on the ice for a too many skaters on the ice minor penalty at 2:50 of the first period– yielding the game’s first power play to Buffalo.

The Sabres weren’t able to convert on the ensuing legal skater advantage.

Midway through the opening frame, David Pastrnak (29) scored on a one-timer after Patrice Bergeron fed Brad Marchand with a stretch pass through the neutral zone and the two first line wingers entered the attacking zone on a 2-on-1.

Marchand (39) and Bergeron (18) had the assists on Pastrnak’s goal as the Bruins took the, 1-0, lead at 12:39 of the first period.

Moments later, Wagner tripped Sabres blue liner, Brandon Montour, and was assessed a minor infraction at 16:35. Buffalo didn’t score on their second power play of the night.

Entering the first intermission, the Bruins led the Sabres, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing in shots on goal, 7-2.

Boston held the advantage in blocked shots (9-3), while Buffalo led in giveaways (4-3), hits (16-7) and faceoff win percentage (67-33).

Both teams had two takeaways aside, while the Sabres were 0/2 on the only skater advantages of the period.

Just 15 seconds into the middle frame, Henri Jokiharju tripped Marchand and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the night.

Boston’s power play was powerless as Buffalo’s penalty kill shifted momentum towards the Sabres– culminating in a goal early in the second period.

Rasmus Ristolainen (4) flung a shot at the net that Rask saved, but Zdeno Chara bopped the puck off his own goaltender and into the twine as the puck squibbed through the Bruins netminder at 6:37 of the second period.

Sam Reinhart (19) and Marcus Johansson (11) tallied the assists on Ristolainen’s goal as the Sabres tied the game, 1-1.

Midway through the second period, Jimmy Vesey sent the puck over the glass and out of play– yielding an automatic delay of game penalty at 11:02.

Boston’s power play continued to struggle once again and couldn’t score while Vesey was in the box.

A few minutes later, Evan Rodrigues was in the sin bin for tripping Steven Kampfer at 14:11, but the B’s didn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Shortly thereafter, the Bruins tweeted that their defender, Connor Clifton, wouldn’t return to the game after sustaining an upper body injury earlier in the action.

After 40 minutes of play in Boston, the Bruins and Sabres were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard with Buffalo holding the advantage in shots on goal, 19-13.

The Sabres also led in takeaways (7-4) and hits (23-15), while the Bruins led in blocked shots (10-7), giveaways (8-5) and faceoff win% (52-49).

Buffalo went 0/2 on the power play through two periods, while Boston went 0/3 on the skater advantage entering the third period.

Early in the final frame of regulation, Johan Larsson took two penalties– one for tripping DeBrusk and another for hooking Marchand– at 1:23 of the third period and presented the Bruins with a 5-on-4 power play for 4:00.

While on the power play, Kampfer fired a shot from the point that DeBrusk (10) redirected past Ullmark while skating through the slot for his first power play goal of the night at 2:37.

Kampfer (1) and Pastrnak (29) notched the assists as Boston took the lead, 2-1.

Just 18 seconds later, DeBrusk (11) fired a shot from about a foot before the goal line along the boards and trickled the puck between Ullmark’s leg pad and the right post to give the B’s a two-goal lead.

David Krejci (20) and Kampfer (2) had the assists on DeBrusk’s second power play goal of the game and the Bruins led, 3-1, at 2:55 of the third period.

Less than three minutes later, Curtis Lazar (2) pounced on a loose puck in the crease while on a delayed penalty call against Boston and tapped the rubber biscuit into the net after Rask made the initial save.

Ristolainen (15) and Jack Eichel (28) tallied the assists on Lazar’s goal and the Sabres trailed, 3-2, at 5:08.

Late in the third period, Ritchie tripped Rasmus Dahlin, but the Sabres weren’t able to capitalize on their last power play of the night at 15:51.

With 2:27 remaining in regulation, Buffalo’s head coach, Ralph Krueger, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker and used his timeout to drum up a plan to tie the game.

Things didn’t go as planned as Reinhart broke Brandon Carlo’s stick with a slash at 19:43, which left a bad taste in the Sabres’ mouths– especially Eichel’s, apparently, as the Buffalo captain was ticked off and exchanging words with an official until he received a misconduct and was sent to the showers with 17 seconds to spare in the game.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 3-2, despite finishing the night trailing the Sabres in shots on goal, 26-22.

Boston wrapped up Sunday’s action with the advantage in blocked shots (13-10), hits (28-25) and faceoff win% (51-49).

Meanwhile, both teams had 10 giveaways aside as the Sabres finished 0/3 on the skater advantage and the B’s went 2/6 on the power play.

The Bruins improved to 17-5-5 when scoring the game’s first goal this season, 15-3-1 when leading after the first period and 6-2-3 when tied after two periods this season.

Boston finishes the month of December (and 2019) in New Jersey on Tuesday afternoon against the Devils before kicking off 2020 with a two-game homestand against Columbus on Thursday and Edmonton on Saturday.

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NHL Nick's Net

Bergeron nets pair as Halak and Bruins shutout Sabres, 3-0

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.

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NHL Nick's Net

Rask enters “Save of the Year” contention in Boston’s, 3-2, win over Buffalo

A pair of goals from Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak’s 20th goal of the season and one game-changing save from Tuukka Rask catapulted the Boston Bruins over the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, at TD Garden on Thursday.

Rask (10-2-2 record, 2.05 goals against average, .931 save percentage in 14 games played) made a season-high 36 saves on 38 shots faced for a .947 SV% in the win for the B’s.

Buffalo goaltender, Linus Ullmark (4-5-1, 3.01 GAA, .910 SV% in 10 games played) turned aside 24 shots on 27 shots against for an .889 SV% in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 14-3-5 (33 points) and remained in command of the Atlantic Division, while the Sabres fell to 10-9-3 (23 points) and stuck in 4th place in the Atlantic as the Toronto Maple Leafs were in action in Arizona against the Coyotes (a win in any fashion for the Leafs would drop Buffalo to 5th in the Atlantic Division standings).

Boston is 8-0-4 at home this season in 12 games, which is the longest home point streak since the 1973-74 season. 

Meanwhile, Pastrnak is the fourth different player in Bruins history to reach the 20-goal mark in 22 or fewer games, becoming the fifth fastest behind Phil Esposito (20 goals in 18 games in 1973-74), Cam Neely (20 goals in 19 games in 1993-94), Herb Cain (20 goals in 20 games in 1943-44) and Esposito again (20 goals in 21 games in 1974-75).

The B’s are now on a two-game winning streak and have won three out of their last four games, while the Sabres dropped to 2-8-2 in their last 12 games.

One more, the Bruins were without the services of Kevan Miller (knee), John Moore (shoulder), Karson Kuhlman (fractured tibia), David Backes (upper body), Torey Krug (upper body) and Zach Senyshyn (lower body) on Thursday.

Re-joining the long list of injured B’s was Brett Ritchie (upper body), as announced by Boston head coach, Bruce Cassidy, earlier in the day prior to Thursday night’s matchup with the Sabres.

Ritchie’s infection was reaggravated and kept him out of his 7th game due to injury this season.

Patrice Bergeron was back in the lineup after missing the last two games with a lower body injury. He returned to his usual spot as the first line center with Marchand on his left wing and Pastrnak on his right wing.

Cassidy moved Charlie Coyle to the second line right wing with David Krejci resuming his role as the No. 2 center and Jake DeBrusk remaining on the left side.

Par Lindholm was left as the third line center with Anders Bjork on his left wing and Danton Heinen on his right wing.

Cassidy left his fourth line trio of Joakim Nordstrom, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner alone, as well as his defensive pairings in the same shape as they’ve been with Krug out due to injury.

Steven Kampfer remained Boston’s only healthy scratch on Thursday.

Early in the period, Lindholm went down the tunnel with an injury after it appeared he might have been cut by a skate in a collision with Rasmus Asplund. He returned to the bench by the end of the period, but only played 20 seconds in his first shift of the night.

Lindholm later returned to the ice in the second period and resumed his usual duties.

Moments later, Kuraly tripped Buffalo’s Evan Rodrigues and was sent to the penalty box at 5:05 of the first period– yielding the game’s first power play to the Sabres.

Buffalo’s power play unit worked quickly and effectively as Rasmus Ristolainen (1) pocketed a rebound into the back of the net from right in the crease after Rask made the initial save.

Jack Eichel (13) and Victor Olofsson (9) tallied the assists on Ristolainen’s power play goal that made it, 1-0, Sabres at 5:25.

It was just the 6th time in 22 games that the Bruins allowed the game’s first goal.

What was more troubling for the B’s wasn’t that they were down early, but rather that they didn’t record their first shot on net until 12:11.

About a couple minutes later, Zdeno Chara fired a shot from the point that Marchand (14) tipped in from the low slot, tying the game, 1-1, on Boston’s 2nd shot of the night at 13:52.

Chara (5) and Pastrnak (16) had the assists on Marchand’s goal.

Less than a minute later, after a scrum in front of the net followed a puck frozen by a goaltender, Wagner dropped the gloves with Curtis Lazar in what was just Boston’s 3rd fight of the season (and first since Marchand fought Filip Hronek on Nov. 8th in Detroit).

Both players also received matching roughing minors at 14:14, resulting in no skater advantages.

Entering the first intermission, the score was tied, 1-1, despite the Sabres leading in shots on goal, 17-4.

Buffalo held the lead in takeaways (6-4) and hits (8-7), while Boston led in blocked shots (5-4) after one period.

The two teams had a pair of giveaways and were 50-50 in faceoff winning percentage.

Heading into the second period, Buffalo was 1/1 on the power play, while the B’s had yet to see any time on the skater advantage.

Buffalo’s 17 shots on goal in the first period were the 2nd most shots allowed in a period by Boston this season. The most shots against in one period for the Bruins thus far is 18 on Nov. 16th on home ice against the Washington Capitals.

Early in the middle frame, Matt Grzelcyk hooked Zemgus Girgensons and was sent to the box at 4:44 of the second period.

The Sabres didn’t convert on the resulting power play.

Midway through the period, Asplund held Krejci and was assessed with a minor at 13:15– presenting Boston with their first power play opportunity of the night.

It only took the Bruins 90 seconds to capitalize on the power play as Marchand (15) caught a rebound and slid the puck under Ullmark for the power play goal at 14:45.

Grzelcyk (5) and Heinen (6) had the assists on the goal as the B’s took their first lead of the night, 2-1.

Less than a minute later, Coyle took a trip to the sin bin for hooking Eichel at 15:16. Boston killed off the ensuing shorthanded bid with ease.

In the final minute of the second period, Ullmark denied DeBrusk with a sprawling leg pad save while DeBrusk entered the attacking zone on a breakaway, before crashing into the boards and heading right down the tunnel to the dressing room for a head start on the second intermission.

He returned for the third period without any issues.

After 40 minutes of action, the Bruins led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, but trailed the Sabres, 24-18, in shots on goal, despite having a, 14-7, shots on net advantage in the second period alone.

The B’s held the lead in blocked shots (10-9), hits (14-12) and faceoff win% (51-49), however, while Buffalo led in takeaways (10-6) and giveaways (8-4).

Heading into the third period, the Sabres were 1/3 on the power play and the Bruins were 1/1.

Jake McCabe opened up the final frame of regulation with a minor penalty for holding against Heinen 32 seconds into the third period.

While on the power play, Pastrnak (20) gathered a rebound and slipped the puck underneath Ullmark’s elevated leg pad and scored his 20th goal of the season– becoming the first NHL player to reach the 20-goal plateau this season.

Pastrnak’s power play goal was assisted by Heinen (7) and Bergeron (12) at 1:56 of the third period and the Bruins led, 3-1.

Less than a couple of minutes later, Nordstrom was sent to the box for tripping Rasmus Dahlin at 3:33.

Rodrigues thought he had a surefire power play goal for the Sabres as Buffalo pressured the Bruins into near submission, but Rask made a no-stick, inside of the blocker save, while diving across the crease.

Boston killed off Nordstrom’s minor as a result.

Midway through the third period, Brandon Montour (2) blasted a one-timer into the twine from the point, cutting Boston’s lead in half, 3-2, at 12:58.

Conor Sheary (3) and Dahlin (13) tallied the assists on Montour’s goal as the Sabres pressed, but couldn’t complete a third period comeback over the Bruins.

With 1:19 remaining in the game, Sabres head coach, Ralph Krueger, pulled his goaltender for an extra attacker, but couldn’t muster a 6-on-5 goal– even after using his timeout with 39.8 seconds left to drum up the perfect plan.

At the final horn, Boston sealed the deal on a, 3-2, victory over Buffalo– improving to 10-0-2 when leading after two periods in the process.

The Sabres finished the night leading in shots on goal (38-27) and giveaways (14-4), while the Bruins walked away with the advantage in blocked shots (17-11), hits (20-14) and faceoff win% (54-46).

Buffalo finished Thursday’s action 1/4 on the skater advantage as the B’s went 2/2 on the power play.

Boston finishes their two-game homestand (1-0-0) against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday.

The B’s close out November with back to back nights in Montreal (Nov. 26th) and Ottawa (Nov. 27th) before finishing the month at home against the New York Rangers in a Black Friday matinee on Nov. 29th.

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #178- Another Day, Another Dollar

Zdeno Chara surpassed 1,500 career games, Claude Julien reached 1,200 games behind the bench, the Toronto Maple Leafs are facing injuries and backup goaltender struggles, Taylor Hall reportedly won’t sign an extension with the New Jersey Devils, the 2019 NHL Global Series happened and the 2020 NHL Global Series was announced.

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #170- 2019-20 Season Preview: Atlantic Division

Brayden Point re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a bunch of other RFAs signed extensions, the Boston Pride were sold, Dan Girardi retired and DTFR’s season previews continued with the Atlantic Division.

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Podcasts

DTFR Podcast #166- New New New York

Nick and Colby recap the headlines from the last month as well as take a look at all of the New York market teams and try to figure out if any of them are actually any good as Season Six of the podcast begins.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes)Stitcher and/or on Spotify. Support the show on Patreon.