Buffalo Sabres

Backes on Sabres loss: "We were backfiring on everything"

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Backes on Sabres loss: "We were backfiring on everything"

BOSTON – When a hockey team is as hot as the Bruins had been for the last three months with a 27-4-4 record in their last 35 games, it’s only a matter of time before a disappointing dud gets mixed in with all of the high quality efforts. That mistake-filled no-show finally arrived on Saturday night when the Bruins simply never matched the work ethic and energy level of the lowly Buffalo Sabres, and never led at any point in a 4-2 loss to Buff at TD Garden.

So much of what was going on was tremendously uncharacteristic for the Black and Gold: Boston’s top line was dreadful with a combined minus-6 rating and just two shots on net, the Bruins defense allowed odd-man rushes and got gashed by Buffalo’s transition attack and the Bruins forwards never got their all-important fore-check on track at any point during the game.

Other than that, the hockey game was great, Mrs. Lincoln.

“I think we were flat and just like the Anaheim game, I mean, when you do that you just don’t deserve it, plain and simple,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We didn’t respect the game plan and I really thought it was at the blue lines on both sides. [There were] a lot of mental mistakes if you want to put it that way. They were coming back at us and you saw a lot of two-on-ones and breakaways, and stuff you don’t want to see."

“We should have played a simple game and went back to just going in there and establishing some good fore-check and some O-zone time. We didn’t do that.”

Unfortunately for the Bruins, the Tampa Bay Lightning won big on Saturday as well and have begun re-widening the gap to a five point lead over Boston with the B’s still holding a couple of games in hand. But it wasn’t about any of those things on Saturday when Adam McQuaid had his worst game since coming back from injury with a minus-2 that included a turnover and blocked shot that directly led to two of Buffalo’s four goals during the evening. It also included Tuukka Rask getting his 21-game point streak snapped when he was beaten on three of the 27 shots that he faced, and was probably Boston’s best player on the ice in a forgettable 60 minutes of hockey.

The Bruins had done a remarkable job of not falling into the trap against a lousy opponent for most of this season, but that wasn’t the case for the second time this season against the Sabres.  

“That was kind of the word I thought of too, was “flat”…that they had good sticks, and they had good energy. I’ve been on that side of the ledger where you’re a team that’s not expected to win, and you’re playing a good team, and it kind of scares you into playing perfectly with good sticks and energy all over the place,” said David Backes. “They had that, which should not have been an issue if we played our game the way we need to and get pucks behind them and have 10-foot support.

“We were looking to hit a lot of home runs tonight, and they were in good spots. They transitioned against us, and the goals they scored, those are instances where Tuukks [Tuukka Rask] sometimes makes those saves, but he’s not supposed to make those saves. We needed more from everyone throughout the lineup, and we were backfiring on everything that we were trying to shove into the engine tonight. I don’t know if it was too excited to play Buffalo, we were looking at the standings or what, but if we stick to our principles, we’re having a different conversation.”

The bad news for the Bruins is that it wasn’t a different conversation in one of Boston’s worst efforts since the middle of November. The good news is that the Black and Gold will get a chance to redeem themselves 24 hours later with a Sunday road game against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center.

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Bruins come out flat and pay for it

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Bruins come out flat and pay for it

GOLD STAR: Rasmus Ristolainen was pretty outstanding for the Sabres throughout the game, and really earned that empty net goal he got from long distance at the very end of the game. Ristolainen finished with a game-high 27:03 of ice time, threw five hits, blocked three shots and had four shot attempts to go along with his plus-2 rating. Credit Ristolainen along with many other Sabres players with adopting a hard-nosed, high work ethic game that it didn’t seem like the Bruins were ready to match on Saturday night. He was tough around the net, did a lot of the gritty grunt work required to win a hockey game and was one of the unquestioned on-ice leaders for a Sabres team that really had nothing to play once they took the ice. But they played hard anyway.

BLACK EYE: There were a lot of ineffective-to-pretty bad players for the Bruins on Saturday night, and David Pastrnak definitely ranks on the low end of that scale. It was Pastrnak that fanned on a pass attempt near the offensive blue line that turned into a quick breakaway chance for Evander Kane in the second period. That sloppy play got the Bruins down by a goal and started the downward slide that continued for the rest of the game. Overall Pastrnak had just a single shot on net with three giveaways in his 18:17 of ice time, and finished a bad minus-2 on the evening. The B’s top line finished with just two shots on net, a minus-6 and had probably their worst game since being put together as a trio. Those kinds of games are bound to happen, but Pastrnak stood out as probably the worst of the three forwards on the whole for the game.

TURNING POINT: After a “meh” first period against Buffalo, the Bruins sank even lower in the second period while getting outshot by a 13-10 margin. A couple of really poor plays at both of their blue lines opened things up for the Sabres, and compounded some mistakes that the Bruins made with their puck management. Just like that the Bruins were trailing by a 3-1 margin as the period ended, and the real kicker was an Adam McQuaid turnover by the side boards that turned into a 3-on-1 odd-man rush and a Benoit Pouliot goal against his former Bruins team. That goal happened in the last two minutes of the second period, and really took all the air out of the Black and Gold’s balloon after they’d closed things to a one-goal before prior to that. That was essentially all she wrote.

HONORABLE MENTION: Evander Kane can certainly be effective when he wants to be, and he was very effective for the Sabres on Saturday night. It was Kane that was freed for a breakaway goal in the opening few minutes of the second period after a David Pastrnak turnover, and he easily finished against Tuukka Rask to get the ball rolling for Buffalo. Kane finished with seven shot attempts, four hits and plenty of energy in 21:56 of ice time, and really stepped up to be “the guy” for the Sabres once Jack Eichel went down with his injury in the first period. There were plenty of other Buffalo players that deserved credit for bringing it on Saturday against Buffalo, but Kane was most definitely up toward the top of the list. This will be the type of game that goes to the top of the list for scouting reports when teams are talking about possibly taking a chance on Kane at the deadline.

BY THE NUMBERS: 19-0-2 – the final number for Tuukka Rask’s point streak is 21 games as he was the losing goaltender vs. Buffalo after allowing three goals on 27 shots, in a game that was definitely not Rask’s fault at all.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It seemed like we were backfiring on everything we were throwing into the engine tonight.” –David Backes, on a night where the Bruins clearly just didn’t have it in a 4-2 loss to the Sabres.

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Sloppy Bruins effort results in 4-2 loss to Sabres

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Sloppy Bruins effort results in 4-2 loss to Sabres

BOSTON – The Bruins had been due for a stinker for quite some time after a three-month long hot streak, and that aforementioned odorous effort arrived on Saturday.

The Bruins fell behind and never quite made it all the way back in a 4-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden in a game where they got outworked and outhustled by Buffalo.

The B's never led in the game, and started falling behind after a pretty even, scoreless first period between the two clubs.

It was Evander Kane that scored on a breakaway first in the second period after taking a long stretch pass from Sam Reinhart after David Pastrnak fanned at a pass attempt from the side boards. Seven minutes later the Sabres doubled their lead when a Nathan Beaulieu point shot deflected off Adam McQuaid right in front of the net, and bounced directly to Scott Wilson for the bang-bang score on Tuukka Rask.

The Bruins fought back a couple of minutes later to get on the board when a Jake DeBrusk rush up the right wing ended with a Ryan Spooner redirection directly in front of the net. But that was it for the Black and Gold as Benoit Pouliot scored a back-breaking transition goal in the final two minutes of the second period.

It was McQuaid that fumbled at a puck this time around, and led way to a Buffalo 3-on-1 with Wilson feeding Pouliot for the sniped insurance strike.

It wasn’t just on the scoreboard either, however, as Buffalo held a 2-to-1 advantage over the Bruins in both the hits and blocked shots categories through the first 40 minutes, and it was too little, too late for the Black and Gold after that point. David Backes scored a late goal with the goalie pulled to get the Bruins to within a single score with 59 seconds to play, but the Black and Gold couldn’t quite push things into overtime.

Rasmus Ristolainen got an empty net, long distance goal with less than 30 seconds left on the clock to ice the game for the Sabres.

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