Second Line Foils Miller’s Superb Night As Bruins Beat Sabres, 3-1

The Bruins celebrate Patrice Bergeron's game-winning goal in the third period of Sunday's game against the Sabres.

The Bruins celebrate Patrice Bergeron’s game-winning goal in the third period of Sunday’s game against the Sabres.

Whether it was the benefit of the extra day of rest or the results of cabin fever from Nemo, the Bruins came out flying in a rematch with the Buffalo Sabres last night. Again, it was a flawless third period that propelled the B’s to the 3-1 win and their best 10-game start in franchise history. Patrice Bergeron scored the winning goal at 7:52 of the third on the power-play, just the third power-play goal of the season for the worst power-play in the league.

Ryan Miller played unbelievably well for the Sabres, or “stupendous” as Jack Edwards pointed out more than once, but Boston avenged their only regulation loss of the season from 10 days earlier and didn’t even lose anybody in the process. Brad Marchand returned to the lineup after missing two games with an upper-body injury and scored the game’s first goal at 7:10 of the second period after the team’s went scoreless through one. Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton, who was knocked out of the last meeting between the two teams with a concussion, were both back on the ice for this one.

Marchand returned in a big way for the Bruins after going down hard in the second period of their win in Toronto just over a week ago and was one of the best players on the ice. In addition to the goal – his sixth in eight games this season – his speed and agitating forechecking were appreciated as the game went on.

“We played a lot better and didn’t give them as much as last time,” said coach Claude Julien after the game. When you’re right, you’re right.

The B’s held the league’s top scorer, Thomas Vanek, to just one shot on goal after he single-handedly accounted for Buffalo’s 7-4 win at the Garden last month, scoring five points in the game. But, you can’t carry goals over. Not in this league, at least.

Anton Khudobin got his second start of the season and was awarded the game’s first star turning in 25 saves on 26 shots. He made some impressive saves on the night, including a right-to-left pad stop on Nathan Gerbe in the final minutes of the first and improved to 2-0 on the year and 7-1 in his limited NHL career.

Miller turned aside 38 of the 40 shots he saw and was the sole reason the final score was only 3-1. The two times he was beat were with shots in traffic to his glove side.

Ryan Miller was on his game, but couldn't stop them all.

Ryan Miller was on his game, but couldn’t stop them all.

There was a lot of action in the first few minutes of this one, both during play and after the whistle. After scurmishes following the first couple of frozen pucks, Gregory Campbell squared off with Patrick Kaleta in the neutral zone after No. 11 didn’t approve of the hit he had just laid on Dennis Seidenberg. Campbell got two for instigating, five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct, which tied the highest penalty minute total of his eight-year career as he also had 17 in a game on March 20, 2007.

It was a good, heavy and fast-paced fight as Kaleta slammed Campbell into the boards a couple of times. You could see it coming after the chippy start, but that was it for the fisticuffs on the night. No Zdeno Chara-John Scott bout to settle a score. Campbell went to the room for the remainder of the period. Buffalo went on the power-play, but as it has done all year, the Bruins’ penalty killers stood tall and didn’t surrender a goal on any of Buffalo’s three man advantages.

The entertaining first period ended with Boston leading in shots, 16-13, and controlling much of the play. Twelve Bruins registered at least one shot on goal in the first.

A 5-on-3 opportunity in the second would produce nothing even with the Bruins taking their timeout to draw something up and spending some of their morning skate Sunday working on such situations. Miller would then rob Nathan Horton just after the second penalty had expired.

Marchand would break the scoreless tie at 7:10 with the wrister from the top of the right circle and then “shushed” the Buffalo crowd a couple of times during the celebration. He made himself available for the quick, short pass from Andrew Ference, who was feeling pressure. It was the little guy’s eighth goal against Buffalo in 15 career games.

“I think ill defer the puck to him if hes got an open lane to the net,” said Ference between periods. “[Miller's] a world-class goalie. It’s nothing fancy. It’s getting in front of the net and trying to block his view.”

The Sabres would come back, though, at 18:02 of the second. It was in the vulnerable minute of their next power-play that Buffalo would tie it up. Seidenberg let the puck slip past him deep in the Bruins’ zone and Drew Stafford fed Tyler Ennis in front, who deked Khudobin for his fifth of the year to tie the game at one.

Bergeron would score the game-winner on the power-play at 7:52 of the third period and end a streak of 0-for-17 for the Bruins on the man-advantage. Chris Bourque shot the puck intentionally wide from the point. Bergeron won the race to it and took advantage of the empty slot to knock it past Miller on the glove side again to make it 2-1.

“We stayed composed and kept doing the little things that gave us success,” said Bergeron. “We found a way. I like our battling, the way that we compete.”

It was Milan Lucic‘s pressure on Mike Weber that forced the defenseman to clear the puck out of play for the delay of game penalty and Rich Peverley‘s faceoff win when Bergeron got kicked out of the circle that led directly to the goal. Those little things…

“I’m happy with our effort tonight. So far I’ve liked the consistency of our hockey club,” said Julien as this rivalry continues to pick up steam.

The B’s were able to withstand more late pressure from the Sabres and a Lucic empty-net goal with 49 seconds left sealed the deal. David Krejci unselfishly fed his linemate for the easy score in the final minute. Seidenberg picked up the secondary assist on the goal that locked up the team’s third straight win.

Boston outshot Buffalo 39-26 and improved to 7-1 on the year when outshooting their opponent. They also improved to 5-1 when up after one period of play and 4-1 when tied after two. The four third-period goals they surrendered to Buffalo in the last meeting remain the only four they have given up all year.

The Bruins lead the Northeast Division with 17 points through 10 games and are second in the East, two points behind the red-hot Devils.

The three stars of the game were Khudobin, Miller and Bergeron. Boston improved to 8-1-1 and Buffalo fell to a disappointing 5-7-1 at the bottom of the Northeast Division and the ninth spot in the East.

The B’s are back in action on Tuesday night at the Garden as they will face off against the Rangers (6-5) for the third and final time this year.

Follow me on Twitter @RealAndyLarmand.

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