BOSTON – For a goaltender that had only started twice in the last 22 games, Jhonas Enroth did his best to be the difference maker on Thursday night. But fatigue caught up to him, and the Boston Bruins were close behind.
The Bruins used goals by Johnny Boychuk and David Krejci just under three minutes apart to break a third-period tie, and finished off the Sabres 3-1 at TD Garden in front of a sellout crowd of 17,565. Jason Pominville had staked the Sabres to a first-period lead, but the Bruins closed it out with three straight goals over the final 40 minutes.
Not only did Buffalo lose the game, they also appear to have lost winger Thomas Vanek with an upper body injury. With just over 10 minutes to go in the game, Vanek was rocked on a hit at the blueline by Boychuk that sent him crashing to the ice. Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff said Vanek was still being evaluated after the game, and didn’t know the full extent of the injury.
Enroth hadn’t started since allowing three goals in the first 27 minutes of a 7-2 loss to Philadelphia on February 16. His last full 60-minute effort was a 6-2 defeat in Chicago on January 18. Despite the lengthy layoff, Enroth didn’t appear to have any rust in the first period.
Boston outshot Buffalo 13-6 in the first and carried the play for most of the opening period. Enroth made numerous big saves, including a pair on heavy point shots from Zdeno Chara and a point blank opportunity by Patrice Bergeron in the slot. He also stopped a two-on-one that Milan Lucic couldn’t finish.
Enroth continued his sharp play in the second with a left pad stop on Tyler Segin, and also got some help from the post when a shot from Dennis Seidenberg rang off the iron behind him. It was during this period when he started to wear down.
“The first period went well I think. I was feeling a bit tired after the first, so I started to feel a bit rusty,” said Enroth. “I haven’t been playing a lot so that’s something I need to work on I guess.”
One night after closing the scoring with the overtime winner against Carolina, Jason Pominville opened the scoring at 16:39 of the first period on a rising slapshot from the right wing that Tim Thomas had no chance on. It marked the third time in Pominville’s career that he’s reached the 25-goal plateau, but the first time since 2007-08.
A defensive miscue late in the second period resulted in Boston’s first goal. Christian Ehrhoff’s attempted breakout pass hit Cody Hodgson’s skate and ended up on the stick of Shawn Thornton. He unloaded a quick shot to the net that Gregory Campbell tipped over Enroth’s glove.
The eventual game winning goal actually started on a smart defensive play by Sabres defenseman Jordan Leopold, who had sprawled out just to the left of the net to intercept a cross-crease pass. However his stick continued to swing and sent the puck right to Boychuk who was racing in from the point. Boychuk then wound up and wired a shot past a screened Enroth from the top of the circle at 12:56 of the third.
Krejci closed out the scoring at 15:54 when he got in behind Ehrhoff on a two-on-one with Lucic and roofed the return pass over a sliding Enroth.
Even though he admitted to wearing down, Enroth couldn’t be faulted for the Campbell and Boychuk goals.
“The first two, I don’t know if I could stop them,” he said. “The third one maybe I could’ve saved, I don’t know what I was doing with that one actually. I’m a little disappointed with that one.”
The 10th-place Sabres are now 31-29-8 (70 pts.), and remain two points behind Winnipeg for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They’ll look to avoid consecutive losses for the first time since a three-game skid in mid February when they travel to Ottawa on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Tonight’s game concluded Buffalo’s 19th of a league-high 21 sets of back to back games. The loss dropped them to 6-8-5 in the second game, and they are 12-7-0 in the first. It’s also the 10th time this season they picked up two of four possible points in back-to-back games.
1-0 BUF: Pominville opens the scoring with a blast from the right wing that Thomas had no chance on (16:39)… Shots: BOS-13, BUF-6
1-1: After a failed clearing attempt by Ehrhoff, Boston capitalizes when Campbell tips Thornton's shot past Enroth (18:09)… Shots: BOS-9, BUF-8
2-1 BOS: Boychuk blasts a shot past Enroth after Leopold's break-up attempt ends up on his stick along the boards (12:56)… 3-1 BOS: Krejci avoids the sticks of Ehrhoff and Weber to roof a shot over Enroth (15:54)… Shots: BOS-6, BUF-6
SABRES NOTES:Cody McCormick (healthy) and Andrej Sekera (flu) were Buffalo’s scratches… Sekera is not with the team, but Ruff said he could rejoin them in Ottawa if his symptoms clear up… Ruff said before the game that McCormick has been cleared to play, after missing 13 games with a concussion suffered against Dallas on February 10… At 262 all-time meetings, the Sabres have faced the Bruins more than any opponent in franchise history.