Bruins blow three-goal lead, lose to Sabres in OT, 5-4


Bruins blow three-goal lead, lose to Sabres in OT, 5-4

BOSTON – The Bruins had things set up for a solid win against an Atlantic Division doormat on Saturday night, but then they went and blew a three-goal second period lead and a two-goal third period lead en route to a deflating loss. 

Ryan O’Reilly scored during a wild scramble around the Boston net in the 3-on-3 overtime and the Bruins dropped a 5-4 overtime decision to Buffalo at TD Garden. So now the Bruins have lost to two of last year’s worst teams in the league, Colorado and Buffalo, and an expansion team within the first seven games of the season. 

The Bruins were all over the Sabres in the first period squeezing off 13 shots on net, and getting goals from David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand to get things going. The Pastrnak score was a clean-up job at the front of the net after Tim Schaller had crashed the net with the puck, and Marchand scored a goal just two seconds into a PP possession after Marco Scandella coughed a puck up right in front of the Buffalo net. 

Marchand struck again on the first shift of the second period when he snapped home a backhanded drop pass from Anders Bjork, and then Jason Pominville and Pastrnak traded scores to give the Bruins a comfortable three-goal lead. Chelmsford’s own Jack Eichel scored on the rebound of a Scandella shot to make it a two-goal game going into the final period of play, and Benoit Pouliot potted his first goal with the Sabres to make it really close down the stretch. 

Anton Khudobin and the Bruins tried to hold strong in the closing minutes of the third, but couldn’t overcome a shaky interference call on Brandon Carlo that ultimately led to a game-tying Evander Kane score after the PP had expired.  

Bean: Bruins can't do Leafs any more favors

Bean: Bruins can't do Leafs any more favors

Facing elimination, Mike Babcock made some moves in hopes of winning Game 5. Bruce Cassidy made one that helped him out. 

One would be correct in saying the Bruins carried the play for most of their Game 5 loss to the Leafs. With better luck regarding posts and saves Frederik Andersen had no business making, they'd have won. Similarly, the Leafs were the better team in Game 4. But the best team doesn't always win and one wrong move can go a long way. 

After Zdeno Chara held Auston Matthews' line to zero goals through the first four games of the series (Matthews' only goal of the series came against the Torey Krug-Kevan Miller pair in Game 3), Babcock shook up his lines. He took William Nylander away from Matthews and put him on the third line. 


With Toronto's lineup more spread out, Cassidy opted to ease up on Matthews and play Chara's pair against Nazem Kadri, Andreas Johnsson and Nylander. The results of the decision contributed to a quick hole from which the Bruins would not recover. 

Freed from Chara, Matthews' line scored against a Torey Krug and Kevan Miller pairing minutes into the game. Johnsson scored against Chara and McAvoy shortly thereafter. 

Cassidy put Chara and McAvoy back against Matthews following the feared experiment, but the damage was done. Two fewer goals would have been the difference in a game the Bruins lost by one. 

Then again, there were 49 minutes and 48 seconds left in the game after the Bruins were put in that 0-2 hole. They dominated for most of the remaining minutes, but they also had some big gaffes when they had little margin for error. Tuukka Rask stunk for the most part and gave up a bad goal to Tyler Bozak seconds after the B's had gotten on the board in the second period. 

So there are other areas where the Bruins could use more. That obviously starts with an improved performance in net, but Rask is not a realistic concern. 

Saturday was Rask's first subpar performance of the series. The same cannot be said for David Backes, who has scored two power play goals in front but has been a ghost in 5-on-5 play. His linemate Danton Heinen hasn't been much better, but Heinen is a rookie. Backes is an aging $6 million player. It's fair to assume that he should be of more use to the Bruins now than he will be in the third, fourth and fifth years of his contract. 

It's also fair to assume that Charlie McAvoy's underwhelming play through five games is a sign that he's still finding his way back from the knee injury that kept him out late in the season. He came a hit post away from scoring in the third period, but he has just one point (a secondary assist on a power play goal in Game 1) all series. 

David Krejci sealed Game 4 by creating a rush on which he assisted a Jake DeBrusk goal, but he's been nowhere near the guy who stole the show in postseasons past. Rick Nash could stand to take over a game given the price Don Sweeney rightfully paid for his services. 

So now the series heads to a Game 6, oddly bringing what has at times looked like a one-sided series to the lengthy conclusion we initially expected. If the Bruins don't try outthinking themselves, it will still end the way they envisioned. 


Talking Points: Rask's shaky game burns the Bruins

Talking Points: Rask's shaky game burns the Bruins

GOLD STAR: Frederik Andersen has been the top player in both of Toronto’s playoff wins in this series, so I am beginning to sense a pattern here. If Andersen plays All-World hockey and the Bruins aren’t quite on their game, they are in trouble. If Andersen is off at all or the Bruins are 100 percent on point, the Leafs don’t have much of a chance. This time Andersen stopped 42 shots while Toronto hung on for dear life in the third period and he stopped 19-of-20 shots for a Leafs team that looked like they were leaking oil. But Andersen made a number of stellar stops while standing tall in the crease and Toronto did just enough good things offensively to create enough space to carry them home. If Andersen somehow really gets into a groove in the final couple of games, that might be the only way that Toronto has a chance of still pulling this off against the Bruins.

BLACK EYE: Tuukka Rask basked himself in his postgame comments, so I suppose it’s finally okay to criticize him now, right? Rask actually wasn’t terrible in this game with some really bad play in front of him during the first period that led to the first couple of goals, but the third goal allowed to Tyler Bozak is one that he needs to stop just a minute after the Bruins finally got on the board and grabbed some momentum. He was finally pulled after James van Riemsdyk roofed one on him in tight on the power play, and he ended up allowing four goals on 13 shots before getting yanked in the second period. Clearly he wasn’t as good as Andersen and it’s just as clear he wasn’t as good as he was in Game 4 on Thursday night, but Rask ends up becoming the fall guy for a Bruins team that didn’t do enough early in the game to deserve closing it out on home ice. So now they go to Toronto to try and end it in Game 6 on Monday night.

TURNING POINT: The killer goal allowed by the Bruins was the third goal to Tyler Bozak on a long, stretch pass as the Bruins were changing behind the play, and Bozak got a chance in the slot one-on-one against Tuukka Rask. Bozak beat the Bruins goalie with his attempt, the Leads scored less than a minute after David Backes had energized the crowd with Boston’s first goal of the night, and the Bruins continued to chase the game. That’s one of those moments where your big time goalie needs to make a big time save like he did 48 hours ago in Toronto, but it wasn’t meant to be this time around with a chance to close out the Leafs on home ice. Plenty happened before and after that play, but that was the crucial one after a pretty bad first period for the Black and Gold.

HONORABLE MENTION: Give it up for the Bruins fourth line that supplied two of the three goals that they scored, and pushed the team one freak play of tying up the game in the third period. Sean Kuraly scored the first of the two goals on a great shot under the bar after a perfect backhanded dish from Matt Grzelcyk, and then Noel Acciari scored in the third period on a loose puck at the side of the net to push the B’s as close as they would get. In all the fourth line had six shots on net, seven hits and most importantly didn’t get scored on when they were out on the ice. They have enjoyed plenty of games where they’ve done excellent, underrated things for the Bruins this season, so here’s a chance for them to get some of the credit during the playoffs. They bring it every night, but tonight they get the honorable mention.  

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the number of career playoff appearances for Anton Khudobin after making his postseason debut in Saturday night’s Game 5 loss. Khudobin ended up stopping all eight shots he faced while the B’s came up just short in the game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I probably could have stopped more pucks with my eyes closed. That’s about it. It’s on me.” –Tuukka Rask, on his subpar Game 5 performance where he said he had no problem getting pulled midway through the second period.