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Bruins win second in a row in shootout

02.09.10 at 10:08 pm ET
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Summary — Daniel Paille scored two first period goals for the Bruins at Buffalo on Tuesday at HSBC Arena, but the Sabres came back with two second-period goals to tie the game before Boston won the game 3-2 on a David Krejci score in a sudden-death shootout. Ryan Miller took the loss with 32 saves, while Tuukka Rask was the winner for Boston with 43 saves. It was Rask’s fourth straight start for the Bruins, and he has been able to get a point for Boston in all four with a 2-0-2 record.

Paille netted the first of the game at 4:51 when he scored on a wraparound against Miller to give the Bruins the early lead. Paille would strike again at 11:58 in the period when he crossed the crease in front of Miller to tip a slap shot from Zdeno Chara at the point for the two-goal advantage.

The lead would not last, as the Sabres came out strong in the second period and turn a lot of pucks over in the neutral zone. The first goal in the comeback came courtesy of Buffalo center Derek Roy with a wrist shot that beat Rask at 4:35 in the second on a 5-on-3 power play. Dynamic Sabres rookie defenseman Tyler Myers would tie it at 18:35 with a wrist shot from the blue line that surprised Rask just enough to beat him on the glove side.

Three Stars

Daniel Paillle — Acquired on Oct. 20 in the first ever trade between the Bruins and Sabres, the speedy forward came back to haunt his former team with two first period goals to give him nine on the year for the Bruins.

Tuukka Rask — The Bruins goaltender had a career-high 43 saves and made three stops in the shootout to give the Bruins consecutive wins and points in their last four games.

David Krejci — Krejci had the game-deciding goal in the shootout as he crossed in front of Miller and buried the puck to give Boston the two-point victory.

Turning Point

The Sabres comeback came in the second period courtesy of the power play. Milan Lucic went for hooking penalty at 2:54 and was joined by Steve Begin for a hook at 3:46 to set up 1:08 of 5-on-3 for Buffalo. Sabres coach Lindy Ruff took a timeout with his team down two goals to talk about the situation and was rewarded when Roy found time and space in front of Rask and put a wrist shot passed the young goaltender for Buffalo’s first goal of the game. The Sabres would play well from there on out to complete the comeback and gain a point.

Key Play

Miller came up big in overtime to stop the Bruins and send the game to the shootout. Early in the extra frame the Bruins had a great chance when Marco Sturm and Matt Hunwick had a 2-on-1 in front of Miller. Sturm crossed to Hunwick who let go of a one-timer that Miller crossed the crease to make a kick save off his pads and send the puck into the corner. Krejci had the game-deciding goal in the shootout that was tied at one after the first three rounds off of goals by Marco Sturm and Jason Pominville.

Read More: Daniel Paille, David Krejci, Ryan Miller, Tuukka Rask

Sabres claw back to tie it in second

02.09.10 at 8:49 pm ET
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It was a wild first five minutes of the second period in Buffalo. The Sabres came out with more aggression than they showed in the first which was immediately evident when their captain, Craig Rivet, decided it was time to throw down with Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton at 2:54. The fight started at the same time that a penalty whistle was blown to send Bruins forward Milan Lucic to the box for a hooking call. The Sabres were then given a golden chance to get back into the game when Steve Begin took a holding penalty 54-seconds later to give Buffalo 1:08 of 5-on-3 hockey at 3:46.

The Sabres would not need all of it to get on the board. At 4:35 Buffalo center Derek Roy found himself in the middle slot facing down Tuukka Rask with time and space. Roy let go a wily wrist shot that beat Rask glove side to cut the Bruins lead to 2-1.

Boston got its first chance on the power play when Paul Gaustad tried to throw down with Zdeno Chara at 9:52. The towering Bruins captain cannot fight though because he tore most of the ligaments in his pinky the first time the Bruins played in Buffalo on Nov. 20. The finger looks pretty ugly as it is bent at a 90-degree angle and Chara has to wear a split on it during practice and games. Per NHL rules, a player cannot fight with any outside material on his hands, hence Chara cannot fight for fear of a suspension or injuring the finger more seriously than it already is. Gaustad went to the box for a two-minute unsportsmanlike yet the Bruins could not break down Ryan Miller’s door.

With the Sabres putting steady pressure on the Bruins through the period, Boston’s best chance came near the 18:30 mark when the puck got loose in the crease in front of Ryan Miller. Boston forward Mark Recchi dove for it but it was cleared and skipped through the neutral zone off the center wall to defenseman Tyler Myers. Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid missed on the loose puck and  Myers picked it up and let go of a sneaky wrist shot that surprised Rask on his glove side the Buffalo tied the game at two at 18:35.

Shots through second period (total):

Bruins — 11 (22).

Sabres — 14 (31).

Read More: Derek Roy, Paul Gaustad, Ryan Miller, Tuukka Rask

Paille nets two in first period against former team

02.09.10 at 7:55 pm ET
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The Bruins look a lot crisper than the Sabres in the first period at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. Boston is taking advantage of a plethora of Sabres turnovers to put pressure on star goaltender Ryan Miller and take a 2-0 lead into the second period. It is the fourth straight game where Boston has held a 2-0 lead and the Bruins are 1-0-2 in those games.

Daniel Paille is comfortable playing in Buffalo. The Sabres drafted him in the first round of the 2002 draft (20th overall) and he made his NHL debut with them in the 2005-06 season and played 195 career games with 35 goals before being traded to the Bruins on Oct. 20 for a third and a conditional fourth round picks. Paille beat Miller by picking the puck up in the trapezoid and wrapping it around at 4:51 for the early Bruins advantage.

Then he did it again.

Paille started the sequence by digging the puck out of the corner and cycling it back around the net to Derek Morris who crossed it across the blue line to captain Zdeno Chara. The big defenseman wound up and fired a shot towards Miller. Paille, who cycled along with the puck, crossed in front of Miller at the same time as the puck and got a piece of it for his second goal of the period that gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead.

Tuukka Rask has blanked the Sabres through the first. Buffalo has generated shots but not a lot of chances.

Shots through first period:

Boston — 11

Buffalo — 17

Read More: Daniel Paille, Marc Savard, Ryan Miller, Zdeno Chara

Bruins look to continue Sabres woes

02.09.10 at 2:28 pm ET
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Tuesday night, the Bruins are on the road in Buffalo to take on the Sabres at HSBC Arena for the second time in the last seven games. Last time the Boston visited Buffalo, it suffered a 2-1 regulation defeat which served as the sixth of ten straight losses the Bruins endured during the month of January into February.

Well, the streak is over, courtesy of a 3-0 blanking of the Canadiens on Sunday at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The Bears are looking to put a couple more points up before the Olympic break with games against Tampa and Florida on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.

The Bruins currently sit at ninth in the Eastern Conference with 59 points, but are only two points from the seventh and eighth seeds and three from the sixth spot. The Sabres lead the Northeast Division with 71 points (one ahead of Ottawa), and would be the third seed if the playoffs started today.

Good things for the Bruins that they do not. The Eastern Conference is a logjam of mediocre teams playing inconsistently. Little streaks by teams have big effects on the standings. Take Ottawa and Buffalo for instance — the Sens have been as hot as anybody can be recently, and have jumped from below the playoff demarcation line to pushing Buffalo for the division lead. Ottawa’s stretch has coincided with a fall for the Sabres, who lost four in a row last week and sound very much like a team struggling to put pucks in the net.

“We’ve got to believe we’re a good team here,” Sabres goaltender Patrick Lalime told the Buffalo News last week. “We had been playing great. A lot of teams go through stretches like that. It’s how you respond, how you get back out of it. We had a good meeting [Saturday]. We have to believe in here.”

Sound familiar, Bruins faithful?

When it comes down to it though, the Bruins are not in that bad of shape. According to the Simple Ratings System (SRS) used by hockey-reference.com, the Bruins are the seventh-strongest team in the Eastern Conference. The rating system works on a score aggregate that takes in baseline performance and then factors in the performance of all a teams competitors to arrive at a number that represents how much better or worse a team is in terms of predicated outcome against an average. (An average team in the SRS system is 0.) Right now, the Bruins are at -.18, which puts them ahead of the Canadiens (-.19), Rangers (-.22), Thrashers (-.26), Panthers (-.30) and Lightning (-.38), all of whom are clustered around the Bruins in the standings.

On the flip side, there is a definite disparity to the upper and lower halves of the Eastern Conference. Buffalo doubles the Bruins SRS score at .18, New Jersey is second at .30 and the Capitals blow everybody in the NHL away with 1.11.

Yet, if you looked at those rankings a couple of weeks ago, Ottawa would have been lower than its current -.07 and the Bruins would have ranked significantly higher (among other fluctuations). The Sabres’ four-game losing streak where they have had trouble getting goals has definitely lowered their SRS rank. Overall though, the system is a good indicator of the strength of a team and where it stands in contrast to the rest of the league. It is worth mentioning the Bruins current number in the ranking does indicate that they are a below average team, and in the system, they are ranked 19th overall in the NHL. That is what a ten-game losing streak does.

It will be important for the Bruins to jump on Buffalo early tonight and find a way to hold Tim Connolly and company off the board. Sabres netminder Ryan Miller may be the best goaltender in the league but, like fellow Olympian Tim Thomas, has had a few struggles of late. Hence the four-game slide.

Tuesday night’s game is the fourth in the six-game series between the division opponents. The Bruins lead the series 2-1-0 after two wins against the Sabres in November.

Boston knows all too well recently that losing streaks are a slippery slope. When things are going bad, they tend to go all bad at once. The Bruins, for a change, have the chance to continue the Sabres slide and grab themselves two points in the process.

Read More: Buffalo Sabres, Ryan Miller, Tim Connolly,

Julien: Krejci looking good for Tuesday

02.08.10 at 6:33 pm ET
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Bruins coach Claude Julien addressed various issues after an optional practice in Buffalo Monday afternoon. The first issue was the status of center David Krejci for Tuesday’s contest against the Sabres. Krejci left Sunday’s 3-0 victory in Montreal in the first period and did not return.

“I think it’s looking good,” said Julien of Krejci’s availability Tuesday.”It’s getting better. We’ll see tomorrow when he skates. It’s the leg obviously.”

Julien was then asked about the play of Andrew Ference in his return after a 14-game absence with a groin injury.

“He handled himself really, really, well,” Julien said. “I felt he really stabilized our [defense] back there. He was an experienced guy coming in, he definitely stabilized and gave our back end some confidence.”

In addition, Julien was favorably impressed with Blake Wheeler dropping the gloves and tangling with Montreal defenseman Ryan O’Byrne.

“He took on a guy who does it every once in awhile, he didn’t hesitate,” Julien said. “The thing I like about it was that it showed players were willing to get out of their comfort zone and was going to show everybody they were willing to do something like that to turn things around. It was the intention for me that was impressive.”

Bruins end losing streak

02.07.10 at 5:50 pm ET
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Marco Sturm had two goals, Adam McQuaid scored his first NHL goal and Tuukka Rask made 36 saves as the Bruins ended a ten-game losing streak with a 3-0 win in Montreal Sunday. Patrice Bergeron had two assists for the Bruins, who won for the first time since taking a 2-1 shootout win in San Jose on Jan. 14.

After McQuaid gave the Bruins the lead with 2:28 left in the opening period, Sturm pushed the B’s to a 2-0 advantage with just four seconds left in the first. He added an insurance goal midway though the third period. Center David Krejci was injured in the first period and did not return.

Three Stars

1. Tuukka Rask

Never let the Canadiens grab any momentum.

2. Marco Sturm

Scores twice to provide the Bruins a lead they would not relinquish.

3. Marc Savard

Sharp pass to set up McQuaid’s goal while skating with jump all over the ice.

Turning Point

With the clock winding down in the first period Sturm jumps on a rebound of a Zdeno Chara shot whisking it past Jaroslav Halak for a 2-0 Bruins advantage.

Key Play

As the Canadiens picked up their attack in the third period, Sturm beats Halak to put things out of reach.

Bruins cannot catch a break

02.06.10 at 5:08 pm ET
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When things are going bad there is a no such thing as catching a break. Sometimes the break catches you.

The Bruins were skating to what was looking like a 2-1 win against Vancouver on Saturday afternoon when Canucks defenseman Sami Salo broke his stick trying to send a blast on Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask. The puck idled off the shot and was over-skated in a clearing attempt by Milan Lucic before Tanner Glass came in and found it in the high slot to send it back on Rask. Vancouver forward Pavol Demitra was in the perfect place to redirect it with the shaft of his stick to tie the game at two. Vancouver went on to win in a shootout.

“Bad luck, story of my season, [expletive deleted], nothing can go right. What can you do?” Lucic said.

Rask saw the play develop in front of him but the odd deflection was enough to get it passed him in his second straight start and second straight shootout loss.

“I saw it, I saw it,” Rask said. “But the guy tipped it in front of me and you can’t just stand there and wait for the tip. I try to be square for the puck and he just happened to make kind of a weird tip and he tipped it over my shoulder. That’s the kind of luck we haven’t gotten in the past couple of games. Just got to stick with it, and it’s coming.”

It is those type of plays that are really starting to wear on the Bruins patience. For three straight games Boston has played well only to see a seemingly innocuous play turn into the deciding factor in the game. On Thursday it was the Matt Hunwick’s penalty that led to the first on Montreal’s two goals in the final minutes of the second period that turned the game around. On Tuesday against the Capitals it was Blake Wheeler and David Krejci not being able to get the puck past Jose Theodore on a wide-open net and then watch as Washington comes storming back minutes later. Good games by the Bruins are turning into losses on a dime.

“It is disheartening. You guys watched that last goal. A guy breaks his stick, [Lucic] should be off on a break away, 2-on-1, and it just kind of flubs through his legs and skate and the guy turns and fires it away,” Savard said. “It is not even a clean tip, it hits his shaft and skips up in the top corner. It is just disheartening, like I said. We go through overtime trying to get the win but no break.”

The Bruins were good in the third period against Vancouver. They did not sit back and wait to lose the game, they were active in trying to put a third goal passed Luongo. The Canuck stoned them which allowed his team enough of an opportunity to catch the break that the Bruins have not been able to in their 10 game skid.

“I still thought we played well in the third with that 2-1 lead and then that mistake and that turned into a goal and that is the end of it,” coach Claude Julien said. “I really thought that we were playing well enough in the third that we could have won that game 2-1. When [Lucic] over-skated that puck and they just threw it at the net, those are the type of things where you say ‘you’ve got to be kidding me, give me a break here’ . . . right now it is just the way it is.”

So it is. The Bruins 10th straight loss turned on a broken stick, a breakaway that wasn’t and a tip off the shaft of Demitra’s stick. With all the breaks, it is a wonder that the Bruins cannot catch one. That is just how things work when a team is in the skids.

Read More: Marc Savard, Milan Lucic, Pavol Demitra, Tuukka Rask
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