Boston, MA – Craig Smith scored three goals in the Boston Bruins convincing 6-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Saturday afternoon. The Sabres were the perfect elixir for multiple struggling Bruins over the two-game home-stand as Boston piled up 11 goals.
Picking up where they left off, the Bruins second line of David Krejci, Taylor Hall, and Smith got things rolling for Boston just 1:21 into the game. Hall carried into the Buffalo zone, hit the brakes and dished to a trailing Krejci, who then hit Smith in front of goal for the easy tap in. The goal was Smith’s eleventh of the year and first of the day.
The Sabres Riley Sheahan was called for Holding at 10:48, giving the Bruins the first power-play. The Bruins were unable to capitalize on the man-advantage but did draw the Sabres into another penalty with one second remaining on Sheahan’s infraction.
However, Sabres defenseman Jacob Bryson hit Sheahan as he exited the penalty box to send the forward in alone on Jeremey Swayman (17 saves). Sheahan beat the rookie goalie high glove-side for the game-tying short-handed goal. It was his fourth goal of the year.
Boston didn’t take advantage of their remaining power-play, but they did build momentum coming out of it.
Sean Kuraly put the Bruins ahead 2-1 at 16:38 when he banged home a Nick Ritchie rebound at the side of the Sabres net. The goal was Kuraly’s third of the season and first since February 5th.
The Bruins built on their lead at 5:36 of the second period when Patrice Bergeron slapped in a rebound of Jeremy Lauzon’s shot past Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (26 saves) to make it 3-1. The goal was Bergeron’s 19th of the year.
Luukkonen was injured in the last thirty seconds of the second period with the Bruins on the man advantage for a Dylan Cozens Slashing penalty.
Nick Ritchie made its 4-1 Bruins at 3:18 of the 3rd when he tipped a Matt Grzelcyk shot past Sabres back-up goalie Dustin Tokarski (11 saves). The goal was Ritchie’s 13th of the season and his fourth in eight games against Buffalo.
Smith notched his second of the game at 5:31 when he buried a Mike Reilly pass in front of the Sabres goal. Reilly carried the puck low into the Sabres zone and dished to Smith in front of Tokarski to make it 5-1.
Buffalo didn’t quit as Arttu Routsalainen beat Swayman by poking the puck through the goalie’s pads after making the initial stop on Rasmus Asplund. Asplund and Casey Mittelstadt assisted on Ruotsalainen’s fifth goal of the year.
Interference was called on Buffalo defenseman William Borgen at 13:39, giving Boston a man-advantage. Smith recorded his second career Hat-Trick at 14:05 when he redirected a Krejci feed from the slot. Smith and Krejci finished the day with three points each.
“It was great,” said Smith. “Krejci told me before the shift, ‘put your stick down. I’m going to try to shoot it at you every time, and it just happened to be the first one. I was laughing with him. It was cool to see the hats flying. I don’t get to see that a lot for myself. It was interesting. It was a good time.”
“I think it’s great. He’s a very popular guy in the room,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “He’s obviously new to the group, and with Covid, it’s tough to get together, but over time I think everyone appreciates his lunchpail approach. He forechecks, creates some turnovers for them, digging around in front of the net. He’s got a great shot. I’m happy for him.”
Boston travels to New Jersey for two against the Devils while Buffalo takes on the New York Islanders at home. All four games start at 7:00 pm on Monday and Tuesday.