We learned as the lineups were released just before puck drop that Patrice Bergeron would not be suiting up. After the last two games, it still felt like there was some room to relax here. Two-thirds of the Perfection Line was still going to be on the ice, and Charlie Coyle received the chance to pad his stats by passing to goal-scoring machines.
It didn’t take long for Boston to score - though, it wasn’t said -Rfection line... rather, Taylor Hall carried the puck deep on the left wing and gave Steve Kampfer a short pass at the top of the left circle. Poor Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was the victim of Kampfer’s low-glove shot as he glided (glode?) to the hash marks, just over two minutes into the game.
Taylor Hall with a clean zone entry — and he sets up a goal for Steven Kampfer.— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) April 23, 2021
1-0 Bruins. pic.twitter.com/6HEtVP4vtM
Boston continued to dance around Buffalo... Brad Marchand and David Krejci both had sequences where they didn’t even need to skate, they just stickhandled the puck out of harm’s way. Krejci’s was even more impressive as, again, though it didn’t appear he was striding much - he GAINED THE ZONE. A pass was then tipped wide and Boston came real close to scoring the second goal just as quickly as the first.
Buffalo would get a power play chance after Matt Grzelcyk tripped Arttu Ruotsalainen, and they managed to get a low-circle shot through Tuukka Rask off the stick of Sam Reinhart.
The last few minutes saw Boston get their own power play opportunity, to no avail.
OK, this is the most casually awesome fan image I have seen in a long time.
shoutout to the kid who has a shirt of Kevan Miller punching Tage Thompson pic.twitter.com/QQQleBtUTM— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) April 24, 2021
I have to imagine that the dad made the shirt and suggested his son should wear it... but if the inverse is true, it’s even better. I would wear this shirt. Every. Day.
Nearing the midpoint, Buffalo was having an easy time skating through Boston’s neutral zone defense, and Boston couldn’t counter, leaving the puck for the Sabres near the red line. An innocuous advance by Buffalo with a 2-on-1 but in the narrowest of lanes on the right wing side. Unchallenged, they took the puck towards the net and the wild reset pass found its way to the point - and with that much time and space, Rasmus Dahlin is definitely an offensive weapon. His shot from just above the circles found the net high above Rask’s glove.
Dahlin snipes one through the traffic and past Rask to give the Sabres a 2-1 lead pic.twitter.com/q7uUMWePZZ— The Charging Buffalo (@TheChargingBUF) April 24, 2021
Another penalty to Boston - their 8th over these back-to-back games - gave the Sabres another opportunity, but fortunately the PK was able to shut down the most dangerous of chances. Jeremy Lauzon looked particularly strong at and below the goal line to the left of Rask, well aware of his surroundings and making smart plays to get the puck out of danger.
While the PK was almost as sharp as ever, five on five play looked really sloppy for Boston. The B’s had some decent moves in tight against the backcheck and were able to move the puck around reasonably fine, the Sabres started picking up on the pattern and were better suited to disrupt plays in tight and make the transition.
When Buffalo did gain the offensive zone, and with about six minutes to play in the second, Tage Thompson controlled the puck at the half wall and found Casey Middelstadt more or less isolated below the hash marks in the slot. A quick flick of the wrist, and Buffalo enjoyed a 3-1 lead.
As the period wound down, you could see the desperation brewing among Boston’s skaters. Craig Smith took down Dylan Cozens in the neutral zone, very far from the puck... and Cozens thought it was a good idea to make it look worse? 4v4 didn’t yield much, and the reduced manpower carried over into the third by about 30 seconds.
Buffalo took a 4- 1 lead just over a minute in on what looked like it would become a broken 3-on-2 for Buffalo... and, it was, because someone dropped a stick. Ruotsalainen, however, took adantage of the distraction and ripped a shot four-hole on Rask, chasing him to the bench in favor of Jaroslav Halak.
Beyond the goal, the Sabres continued to cover Boston’s attack very well. What they had built in the second period, they continued to improve, especially in the neutral zone transition after gaining the puck off turnovers. Then, with a penalty against Marchand, the brains sharted the rest of their smarts and Charlie Coyle set up Jaro to be embarrassed by Reinhart.
A great offensive pass... if you were in the offensive zone.
All looked lost, and some rays of hope shone through with 8 minutes and then 4 minutes to play, in the forms of goals from Ritchie and Kevan Miller - the latter for his first goal IN OVER THREE YEARS.
His Punchiness the Kevan:
Kevan Miller with his first goal since Dec. 27, 2017.— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) April 24, 2021
5-3 game. pic.twitter.com/pnjaw4jSYa
Then Hall too?! (Off an admittedly lucky bounce.)
TEORICAMENTE É DO TAYLOR HALL ENTÃO É ISTO, TUDO QUE EU PRECISAVA NO DIA DE HOJE https://t.co/EqImc3wAHm— natália (@natonnks) April 24, 2021
This comeback could only be thwarted by the dreaded empty-netter from Reinhart for the hat trick... and it was. Exactly that way. But only because we saw it happen first.
We won’t torture you, you know what empty-net goals look like.
Yeesh. Put this one in the ‘working’ file and start prepping in earnest for Pittsburgh on Sunday! Matinees are the WORST!