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RECAP: Bruins sleepwalk through first period, muster enough energy to beat Sabres and extend points streak to six games

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Tuukka Rask played well, stopping 38 of 40 shots and submitting his own candidacy for Save of the Year.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Boston Bruins Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll start with an homage; Bruins trainer Don DelNegro has supported Boston’s on-ice effort for 2,000 games. That’s an outstanding career, and the guy looks like he hasn’t aged a day. Go Don!

David Pastrnak with the assist, for once.

First Period

A slow start wouldn’t even begin to describe the first period. Boston had some space on offense, for a few shifts. A faceoff violation on Brad Marchand (that likely had little to do with the Bruins’ play) marked the beginning of a stretch that saw Buffalo control the pace of play. After a trip by Sean Kuraly put Buffalo on the advantage, A GOAL by Rasmus Ristolainen on the power play got the scoring started about five minutes in.

It did not improve quickly. Halfway through the first, the Sabres held a 12-0 shot advantage. TWELVE. TO. NONE. Something something something shots you don’t take. A Bronx cheer went up for the Bruins’ first shot on net, around the 11-minutes-PLAYED mark.

Boston managed to get Buffalo scrambling, and off a broken breakout, a point shot from Zdeno Chara found its way to the front of the net, where Brad Marchand redirected it... on Boston’s second shot of the game. The Bruins’ unsustainable shooting rate of 50% nearly held up for the rest of the period. FOUR F%$KING SHOTS in an NHL period. Dang, the shooting percentage was only 25%.

After that goal, a few Buffalo players got right into Rasks’ grill, and Chris Wagner was having as little of it as possible.

Well, what an interesting 20 minutes. Can we start the hockey game now, Boston?

Second Period

A faster start, which isn’t saying a ton. Buffalo still got the first shot on net for the period. Through five minutes, there were only four shots total... and plenty of cycling and passing.

A couple more minor penalties, but not much else to show. Shooting chances started to level out overall, and Boston was able to capitalize on their power play. Matt Grzelcyk played aggressively at the point and kept the puck in around a diving Sabre, and Marchand cleaned up the loose change, shooting it five-hole on a still-sliding Ullmark for his second of the game.

Buffalo immediately got a chance to retaliate, as Coyle was called for a hook on the next shift after Marchand’s PP goal. No goal for Buffalo, but in the last two minutes or so, Boston basically abandoned all structure to their game and allowed back-to-back odd-man rushes before a really lucky save by Tuukka forced the puck to trickle just wide of the net, off the bottom of the post and out of harm’s way. In other good news, Bergeron saw his ice time climb - through one period, he was fourth or fifth in TOI among forwards, and inched ahead of David Krejci in the second. Looks like he’s feeling better.

On a side note, though the TVs are muted up at press level, NESN might or might not have been deliberately trying to troll Jimmy Vesey. (Not that it’s been difficult of late; the guy is not playing well at all.) Hot vs. Cold meters comparing Vesey to Coyle seems just a little unfair.

Third Period

A rough start for Buffalo, as McCabe was penalized for a hold and Boston scored on the power play. Another scrappy goal, though the power play advantage definitely helps in those overload situations. Pasta tallied his twentieth goal of the season to put Boston ahead, 3 - 1.

Big-time kudos to Gryz for keeping the play alive, in a pretty slick catch-and-pass move:

Buffalo again got a power play soon after Boston’s expired, and though the chances for them were pretty limited, they did get this dandy on net. Tuukka Rask is just dandier.

Buffalo was able to steal a goal, with an unmarked shot from Brandon Montour near the wall, and almost as low as the hash marks, drawing the Sabres to within one.

The last couple minutes were very nervewracking; the Bruins struggled to clear the slot and ended up handing the puck right back to Buffalo in dangerous shooting areas multiple times - most egregiously to Jeff Skinner, a great shooter, all alone in the high slot. Once the Sabres pulled Ullmark with around 90 seconds remaining in regulation, Buffalo didn’t let the puck out of the attacking end, and Rask was forced to cover the puck against his right post multiple times to get the faceoff.

Challenging for the heart, but the Bruins eked out a win! They’ve earned points in six straight games, have yet to lose in regulation on home ice, and host the Minnesota Wild at the Garden on Saturday night.

Let’s keep trending up, eh, Bruins?