Boston, MA – An offensive outburst in the third period by the Boston Bruins broke open a tie 2-2 game against the visiting Buffalo Sabres in front of 2,191 at TD Garden. Charlie Coyle snapped his scoring slump, his first goal in 29 games, to notch the game-winning goal and earn Boston two points in the tight MassMutual East division race with seven games remaining in the regular season.
“It’s not about me and scoring goals. It’s about the team winning,” said Coyle post-game. “Did I realize I hadn’t scored in a little bit? Yeah. But you just have to make sure you play your game. I don’t go into these games thinking, ‘I need to score, I need to score.’ It’s just about me bringing what I’m capable of bringing and what I need to play well.”
Boston jumped out to the early 1-0 lead when David Pasternak one-timed a Patrice Bergeron feed past Sabres rookie goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (35 saves) at 1:16. Pastrnak’s goal was his 19th of the year. Bergeron and Brad Marchand assisted.
Buffalo tied the game 1-1 at 14:09 after the Bruins got sloppy in their own zone. Casey Mittelstadt beat Tuukka Rask (29 saves) on a rebound of an Arttu Ruostalainen shot. Pasternak was unable to corral a breakout pass at his feet, and the puck caromed to Ruostalinen.
A Tripping call on Buffalo’s Sam Reinhart gave the Bruins a power-play opportunity at 18:05. Boston had a few good early looks, but Luukkonen was able to keep the score even. It looked as if the period might end with Boston not capitalizing on the man-advantage, but Charlie McAvoy found David Krejci for a one-timer at the right face-off dot that beat Luukkonen at 19:59. Krejci’s eighth of the season made it 2-1 Boston.
The second period belonged to Rask and Luukkonen as the pair of Finnish netminders kept the score at 2-1. Rask had 11 saves in the period while Luukkonen turned back 15. The veteran Rask had a few highlight-reel saves. Still, the biggest was on Rasmus Dahlin as he exited the penalty box after serving an interference penalty with about three minutes remaining in the period. Rask turned away the breakaway by Dahlin with ease.
Buffalo tied it just 1:43 into the third period when Reinhart deposited a shot past Rask while alone in front of the Boston goal. A scrum behind the net led to Victor Olofsson finding Reinhart through three Bruins defenders, and the Sabres captain notched his team-leading 23rd goal.
Coyle struck when he picked off a Reinhart pass attempt to Rasmus Ristolainen and raced in for the unassisted game-winner at 7:58. The goal was Coyle’s sixth of the year and first since scoring two against the New York Rangers on February 28th.
Taylor Hall netted an insurance goal at 16:43 on a Krejci feed. The veteran centerman toe-dragged on Sabres defenseman Henri Jokiharju and dished to a wide-open Hall to beat a sprawling Luukkonen. The goal was Hall’s seventh of the season and his fifth in 10 games as a member of the Bruins.
Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton was whistled for Slashing at 17:47. Buffalo pulled Luukkonen for the extra attacker, but Marchand added the empty-net goal to finish off the Sabres at 18:26. The goal was Marchand’s 27th of the season.
“It was obviously the difference in the game,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “He gave us the boost back. His type of goal. He took it to the net. Hopefully, he builds off of that.”
With the win, the Bruins have 64 points on the season and trail the third-place New York Islanders by a point. Buffalo falls to 13-31-7 while shoring up last place in the division.
The two teams meet again at TD Garden on Saturday at 1:00 pm.
Boston Bruins photo appears courtesy of Inside Hockey.