Charlie Coyle scored the game-winning goal 34 seconds into overtime to secure a, 4-3, victory for the Boston Bruins against the Buffalo Sabres Saturday afternoon at TD Garden.
It was the first two-goal deficit comeback win of the season for the Bruins as Linus Ullmark (8-5-0, 2.55 goals-against average, .919 save percentage in 13 games played) made 21 saves on 24 shots faced in the win.
Sabres goaltender, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (2-3-2, 2.41 goals-against average, .927 save percentage) turned aside 37 out of 41 shots against in the overtime loss.
Boston improved to 15-10-2 (32 points) on the season and remained stuck in 5th place while pulling to within one point of the Detroit Red Wings in the Atlantic Division standings for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Buffalo fell to 10-17-6 (26 points) overall– trapped behind the Bruins in 6th place in the Atlantic.
The B’s also improved to 8-5-1 at home this season, as well as 3-0-0 against the Sabres in 2021-22 with one game remaining against Buffalo on April 28th at TD Garden.
After losing, 3-1, to the New York Islanders at UBS Arena on Dec. 16th, six games were postponed due to Boston’s COVID-19 outbreak that led to the Bruins earning a 16-day holiday break instead of the usual three days off for Christmas.
Taylor Hall, Curtis Lazar, Brandon Carlo and Coyle were all added to the COVID protocol list that already featured names like, Brad Marchand, Craig Smith, Patrice Bergeron, Trent Frederic, Anton Blidh, Jeremy Swayman and Oskar Steen prior to the shutdown for the B’s (and eventual league pause as all 32 teams received a couple of extra days off– bookending the scheduled holiday break).
Seven players were cleared to return when testing resumed on Dec. 26th, Steen was reassigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) and the rest of the players in protocol cleared by New Year’s Eve.
Meanwhile, the National Hockey League reinstated the use of a taxi squad of up to six players until the 2022 All-Star break after pulling out of the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
As such, John Moore was assigned to Boston’s taxi squad with the anticipation of unrestricted free agent goaltender, Tuukka Rask, joining the roster soon too, which could mean that Swayman ends up getting the bump to the press box until February upon Rask’s return.
Also, if you’re wondering what Rask’s rehabilitation stint would look like, it’s been reported by The Athletic‘s Fluto Shinzawa that Rask would get a few games in Providence while the B’s are on the road in Tampa and Detroit before officially rejoining Boston and returning to NHL action after being sidelined from offseason hip surgery.
Of course, when Rask returns and if the taxi squad goes away, the Bruins might feel it’s best for Swayman’s development to continue to get some game action and send him to the AHL for the remainder of the year– rolling with NHL veteran netminders, Ullmark and Rask, down the stretch.
With everyone back from COVID protocol, Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, juggled his lines on Saturday against Buffalo.
Marchand and Bergeron suited up on the first line and were joined by Smith on right wing as David Pastrnak was demoted to the second line with Erik Haula at center and Hall at left wing.
Coyle centered the third line with Jake DeBrusk and Nick Foligno on his wings, while Tomáš Nosek anchored the fourth line, flanked by Frederic and Lazar.
On defense, Cassidy paired Matt Grzelcyk with Charlie McAvoy on the first defensive pairing and rounded out his top-four defenders with Mike Reilly alongside Carlo.
Derek Forbort suited up with Connor Clifton on the third pairing while Jakub Zboril (torn ACL in his right knee) is out for the rest of the regular season since sustaining an injury on Dec. 2nd in Nashville and undergoing surgery on Dec. 16th.
With Moore designated for the taxi squad and Zboril out due to injury, Blidh and Karson Kuhlman were the only healthy scratches for Boston on Saturday.
Alex Tuch opened the day’s action with a cross checking infraction 13 seconds into the first period, yielding the afternoon’s first power play to Boston.
The Bruins, however, weren’t able to capitalize on their first skater advantage of the game.
Moments later, Vinnie Hinostroza (6) riffled a shot from the high slot that may have deflected off of Foligno and into the twine under Ullmark’s blocker– giving the Sabres a, 1-0, lead at 6:33 of the first period.
Brett Murray (4) and Rasmus Dahlin (15) tallied the assists on Hinostroza’s first goal back from being in the league’s COVID protocol.
Less than a minute later, Anders Bjork cut a rut to the sin bin against his former team for boarding Forbort at 7:07.
Once more, though, Boston wasn’t able to score on the power play.
Heading into the first intermission, Buffalo held onto a, 1-0, lead on the scoreboard, despite trailing the Bruins in shots on goal, 13-5.
The Sabres held the advantage in blocked shots (4-2), giveaways (6-1) and faceoff win percentage (54-46), while the B’s led in takeaways (2-1).
Both teams had seven hits aside after one period of play, while only the Bruins had any time on the skater advantage and went 0/2 heading into the middle frame.
Jeff Skinner tripped up Marchand 31 seconds into the second period and presented Boston with another chance on the power play that ultimately went by the wayside.
Though they didn’t score on the advantage, the Bruins did manage to catch the Sabres in the vulnerable minute after special teams play as Smith (3) buried a rebound from the doorstep on a garbage goal– tying the game, 1-1, at 3:47 of the second period.
Marchand (17) and McAvoy (12) notched the assists as the B’s got on the scoreboard.
Less than a minute later, Haula cut a rut to the box for holding the stick at 4:19 and was shortly followed by his teammate at 5:33 when Nosek tripped up Peyton Krebs.
Buffalo went on a 5-on-3 power play for the next 45 seconds and even used their timeout to draw up a plan for the two-skater advantage, but couldn’t muster anything past Ullmark as Boston’s penalty killing unit stood tall in front of their goaltender.
Midway through the period, however, Tuch fired a shot that rebounded right to the slot as Skinner (10) crashed the net and sent the puck past Ullmark’s glove side to give the Sabres the lead once again, 2-1.
Tuch (2) and Tage Thompson (9) had the assists on Skinner’s goal at 11:32 of the second period.
A few minutes later, Tuch made a visit to the penalty box for interference at 14:17, but Boston wasn’t able to score on yet another power play.
Shortly after killing off Tuch’s minor, Buffalo went on the advantage as Smith was penalized for hooking Luukkonen at 18:25.
It didn’t take the Sabres too long to capitalize on the ensuing power play as Tuch (1) wired a shot over Ullmark’s blocker for his first goal as a Sabre at 19:11 of the second period.
Krebs (1) and Thompson (10) had the assists on Tuch’s power-play goal and Buffalo extended their lead to two-goals, 3-1, as the middle frame winded down and gave way to the second intermission.
Through 40 minutes of action at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon, the visiting Sabres led, 3-1, on the scoreboard, despite the home team Bruins dominating in shots on goal, 26-14, including a, 13-9, advantage in the second period alone.
Buffalo maintained the advantage in blocked shots (8-3), takeaways (4-1), giveaways (6-2) and hits (11-10), while the two teams split faceoff win%, 50-50.
The Sabres were 1/3 on the power play, while the Bruins were 0/4 heading into the final frame of regulation.
DeBrusk led a charge into the attacking zone with a burst of speed and a shot that rebounded off of Luukkonen back into the slot as Foligno (1) crashed the net and elevated a backhander over Luukkonen’s outstretched pads for his first goal in a Bruins uniform at 3:24 of the third period.
DeBrusk (4) had the only assist on Folingo’s goal as the B’s trailed, 3-2.
Boston rallied with momentum on their side as Hall (6) broke into the attacking zone and patiently waited before sending a toe-drag snap shot over the glove side of the Sabres netminder to tie the game, 3-3, at 4:50 of the third period.
Grzelcyk (6) and McAvoy (13) notched the assists on Hall’s goal as the Bruins scored a pair in a span of 1:25.
Midway through the third, Smith tripped Dahlin and presented the Sabres with the last power play of the afternoon at 13:27 of the third period.
Buffalo did not convert on the ensuing advantage.
In fact, neither team managed to score in the remainder of regulation, necessitating overtime after a brief sound of the horn to signal the end of 60 minutes of action.
Boston led in shots on goal, 40-23, and had a, 14-9, advantage in the third period alone.
The Sabres led in blocked shots (10-9), takeaways (4-2) and giveaways (9-2), while the Bruins led in faceoff win% (51-49). Both teams amassed 14 hits each.
As there were no penalties called in the overtime period, Buffalo finished the afternoon 1/4 on the power play, while Boston went 0/4 on the skater advantage.
Cassidy sent out Bergeron, Marchand and McAvoy to begin the extra frame while Sabres head coach, Don Granato, countered with Skinner, Thompson and Dahlin.
It didn’t take long for both teams to barely get through the first shift of overtime and start replacing players one-by-one as Coyle touched the ice– fresh from the bench.
Marchand skated deep into the offensive zone before dropping a pass back to Coyle in the high slot whereby Coyle (8) sent the rubber biscuit high over Luukkonen’s glove side to seal the deal on a, 4-3, come from behind overtime victory for Boston.
Marchand (18) and McAvoy (14) had the assists on Coyle’s game-winner 34 seconds into overtime and the Bruins kicked off 2022, in the win column.
The B’s finished the afternoon leading in shots on goal, 41-24, despite both teams managing to fire one shot on net in overtime alone.
Boston also wrapped up Saturday’s action leading in faceoff win% (52-48), while Buffalo exited TD Garden leading in blocked shots (10-9), giveaways (9-2) and hits (15-14).
The Bruins improved to 1-1 in overtime this season (2-2 past regulation), while the Sabres fell to 1-5 in overtime (3-6 past regulation) in 2021-22.
The B’s improved to 5-6-2 (4-3-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 3-5-1 (3-2-1 at home) when trailing after the first period and 3-7-2 (3-3-1 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.
Buffalo fell to 7-5-3 (3-3-3 on the road) when scoring first, 2-1-2 (1-1-2 on the road) when leading after the first period and 7-2-4 (3-2-2 on the road) when leading after two periods in 2021-22.
The Bruins venture to Detroit for a quick visit against the Red Wings on Sunday before hosting the New Jersey Devils next Tuesday (Jan. 4th) and Minnesota Wild next Thursday (Jan. 6th). Boston then visits the Tampa Bay Lightning next Saturday before swinging through Washington, D.C. on Jan. 10th.