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Bruins can’t outwork Sabres in Garden loss

01.03.09 at 9:05 pm ET
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“All good things must come to an end — There is an end to everything, good things as well.”

It’s pretty certain that Chaucer wasn’t thinking of any Boston Bruins winning streaks when he coined the catchy little phrase back in the 14th century, but it was extremely applicable in Saturday afternoon’s 4-2 loss to the Buffalo Sabres at the Garden.

The defeat snapped the team’s 10-game winning streak — the franchise’s best in 35 years — and their 14-game home winning streak, and painted a clear picture for the Bruins’ skaters of a rival hockey club that channeled hard work and desperation into Boston loss. It’s a formula that the Bruins have used countless times this season to pile up points, but they certainly don’t have a patent on it.

Tim Thomas wasn’t great between the pipes, but he certainly wasn’t negligent enough to lead to a defeat. Shawn Thornton and Phil Kessel both tallied goals in an offensively disjointed effort, but the B’s had plenty of Grade A scoring chances they simply didn’t capitalize on. The normally leak-free Bruins defense had a few uncharacteristic breakdowns, but — more of than not — the Sabres simply and aggressively took it away from the Bruins and then forced the scoring.

In a time during the NHL season when the standings are starting to sorts themselves out and teams are looking to put themselves at good standing by this month’s All-Star break, Buffalo gritted their collective teeth, strapped on the hard hats and worked dilligently enough for the blue collar victory. It didn’t take long for the Bruins skaters to recognize the lengths the Sabres were going to go to get a ‘W’, and they simply couldn’t match it. 

“They were skating really good and forechecked really hard. Sometimes they forechecked with three guys or two guys and sometimes we made a good breakout, but again, they were working extremely hard tonight,” said Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara, who along with the rest of his Bruins teammates hadn’t suffered a loss at home since way back on Oct. 23 vs. the Maple Leafs. ”They were really hungry. You could sense their desperation from the beginning of the game. We kind of did not have it right from the beginning, and we have to improve that.”

The Sabres weren’t all brawn and no brains, though. Once they’d built up a 4-2 lead heading into the third period, Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff went into lockdown mode and confounded the B’s attackers by going into the ultimate prevent defense. The strategy gave the Sabres virtually no presence in the offensive zone, but also limited the quality of Bruins’ chances among their 11 third period shots at the net. The ploy worked, and left the Bruins with something to think about the next time they’re trailing the Sabres headed into the third period.

“In the third period, I haven’t ever seen five men back or whatever they were playing. It was kind of different,” said B’s center Marc Savard, who made a great fake-shot-and-then-pass move on Kessel’s power play strike. ”It looked a Mighty Ducks movie or something. But it definitely worked. We couldn’t get anything going through the neutral zone, or get it over the line cleanly.”

Ward on the injured list again

Veteran blueliner Aaron Ward was only in his third game back from an ankle injury yesterday afternoon, and had to leave in the second period after suffering a charley horse injury. While it’s good news that Ward didn’t reinjure the ankle that’s given him problems over the last month, the aches and pains are beginning to add up for a battle-hardened veteran that only knows how to play one way: the path of pain and resistance paved with body-rattling body checks and bone-shattering blocked shots. 

“It’s a slight charlie-horse and right now he’s being looked at.  How severe is it?  We don’t know yet; those are all things you find out in the next few days,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “(It happened) from the hit in the corner (before Buffalo’s third goal.”

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