GOLD STAR: Jack Eichel scored the game-tying goal in the third period when he fired a puck that ricocheted in off Kevan Miller’s skate in front of the net, and finished with a game-high four points for the Sabres. Eichel had the two goals, two assists and a plus-2 rating while Eichel finished with five shot attempts in an effort that got better as it went along. By the end of the first period, you could see Eichel gathering some momentum with Evander Kane and Tyler Ennis and they were a handful for the Zdeno Chara/Kevan Miller D-men pairing by the second half of the third period. Eichel was most definitely nervous headed into this game, but he showed exactly what he’s all about in the final 20 minutes of the game.
BLACK EYE: Zdeno Chara was doing a little bit of everything on Saturday night, and most of it wasn’t very good. He was on the ice for three goals against, had an atrocious turnover while fanning on a clearing attempt that led to Buffalo’s opening goal and finished with three giveaways on a stat sheet that wasn’t lying. Chara has started making more and more errors as the season has gone along like the turnover in the first, or getting beaten to the spot in front of the net on Jamie McGinn’s go-ahead goal in the third period. One has to wonder if the big ice time minutes workload for Chara is beginning to take its toll on him, though it would seem that shouldn’t be a factor after the entire Bruins team was given the last three days off from skating.
TURNING POINT: Once the Bruins went up 3-1 on the Sabres midway through the third period, they basically took their foot off the gas pedal. Ryan O’Reilly scored the one goal to get some momentum back for Buffalo, and then a Loui Eriksson turnover led to the Eichel game-tying score where the wheels really started coming off the wagon. In all the Bruins allowed three goals in 4:23 that completely blew away a two goal lead in the third period, and then paved the way for a ridiculous five unanswered goals from the Sabres en route to a mind-blowing Bruins collapse. It’s stunning how bad the Bruins frittered that game away in the third period.
HONORABLE MENTION: Ryan O’Reilly was always considered to be a poor man’s Patrice Bergeron in the Western Conference, and he’s showing why in Buffalo. O’Reilly finished with a pair of goals and three points, and fed the pass from behind the net to Jamie McGinn for the Sabres’ game-winning score. O’Reilly finished with four shot attempts, two takeaways and battled to 11-of-29 face-off wins while seeing plenty of Patrice Bergeron throughout the game. He will be a factor for a long time when the Bruins and Sabres face each other moving forward.
BY THE NUMBERS: 2 – the number of consecutive games where the Bruins have blown third period leads when they had chances to overtake the Montreal Canadiens in the standings.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “We didn’t respect the game of hockey.” – Claude Julien, during a very short postgame press conference where he was clearly still bubbling over with anger at what he’d just witnessed in the third period.