PREVIEW: Boston Bruins aim for bounce-back win vs. skidding Sabres

By Field Level Media
Mar 3, 2021; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center David Krejci (46) collides with Washington Capitals left wing Conor Sheary (73) during the second period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Bruins stumbled in their return from a COVID-19-related shutdown after seeing an early two-goal lead go by the boards.

The Bruins likely won’t receive any semblance of sympathy from their struggling opponent on Saturday afternoon. After all, the visiting Buffalo Sabres are mired in a franchise-worst 16-game winless skid (0-14-2).

Karson Kuhlman and Steven Kampfer each scored their first goals of the season and defenseman Charlie McAvoy notched a pair of assists in the first period to stake Boston to a 2-0 lead on Thursday.

Then the bottom fell out. Tuukka Rask departed with an undisclosed injury, and the Bruins failed to convert on a four-minute power play before ultimately losing their way in a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders.

“We had a 2-0 lead, got some secondary scoring, second-unit power play,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “(We) didn’t defend well enough in front of our net. Had to switch goalies. Sure, it wasn’t easy on (Jaroslav Halak) to go in a situation like that, and they finished around the front of the net. We could’ve been harder, could’ve used an extra stop. Got a point out of it. We were in a position to get two.”

David Krejci, who joined David Pastrnak and Craig Smith in returning from COVID-19 protocol, recorded an assist on Kampfer’s goal with 2:25 remaining in the first period. Krejci set up three goals to cross the 700-point plateau in Boston’s 4-1 win over Buffalo on March 18.

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Pastrnak collected a goal and an assist in the first encounter with the Sabres. Halak preserved that win with 23 saves to improve to 13-3-0 with a 2.06 goals-against average and .924 save percentage in 16 career meetings with Buffalo.

The Sabres were shut out for the fifth time during their winless stretch and seventh time this season on Thursday in a 4-0 setback to the Pittsburgh Penguins. General manager Kevyn Adams stepped in behind the bench for interim coach Don Granato and interim assistant Matt Ellis, who were unavailable due to NHL COVID-19 protocol.

“It’s terrible to lose in any way,” Adams said. “Suite level, press box, ice level, player, coach — it doesn’t matter, it’s tough. It wears on you. You want better. What I said to the guys after the game is, ‘We’re all in it. We’re in it together.’ … That was the message to the team. The one thing you can’t do, though, is ever give in.”

The Sabres failed to convert on all four of their power-play opportunities, extending their fruitless drought to 28 chances with the man advantage over their last 15 games.

Read More: RECAP: Pittsburgh Penguins extend Buffalo Sabres’ woes with 4-0 trouncing

“(The Bruins) executed,” Adams added. “They get the two power-play goals out of four chances. We get zero out of four chances. They scored when they needed to, we missed the net.”

Dustin Tokarski has started back-to-back contests in net for Buffalo. Tokarski, while playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning, turned aside 33 of 34 shots to win his lone career meeting against Boston on March 13, 2012.

–Field Level Media