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Sabres 4, Bruins 2: Disjointed effort spoils Rask's 21-game point streak

Ty Anderson
February 10, 2018 - 11:37 pm

Moved within a goal of the Sabres late in the second period, Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid pinched up deeper into the attacking zone in search of an attempted keep-in.

But the puck hopped up and over his stick, and gave the Sabres a three-on-one towards Tuukka Rask. And off a feed from Scott Wilson, Benoit Pouliot that buried a puck through Tuukka Rask for a 3-1 Buffalo lead with just 1:11 left in the second period. It was the swiftest of kicks the Bruins could have been dealt in a game big on unsuccessful high-risk plays and low-percentage passes, as the goal erased all the good that should have come with Ryan Spooner’s deficit-halving goal tallied just four minutes prior.

And in that moment, even Admiral Ackbar himself would have recognized what the Bruins had just fallen into against a straight-up disastrous Sabres that lost top scorer Jack Eichel in the first period with a leg injury: It was a trap (game), and a 4-2 loss.

“Part of the problem is we over-pass, so, obviously, then the execution gets magnified,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the loss. “If you simplify it and find some open ice then get it to the net, get some second chances, then you don’t have to worry about that part; you’ve just got to worry about the executing, hitting the net.

“I just thought we were cute tonight. It was leading up to something, and we have creative guys, but at some point, you’ve got to get it there. It’s got to get to the net with traffic, and we just didn’t do enough of that to earn our goals. It’s ironic we do it with the goalie out late. Too little, too late, but we need a lot more of that early on.”

But it was the aforementioned passing that emerged as the B’s biggest problem.

Too often it seemed that the Bruins tried to force passes that would thread the needle and lead to an obvious highlight goal. But an attempt from David Pastrnak was intercepted and turned into a breakaway goal for Evander Kane, and it nearly led to another goal when Brad Marchand tried the same pass in the third period.

“You can accept not executing certain nights; you can accept the puck not going in, but the giving them the free chances the other way, that’s just not who we are. We’ll talk about that in the morning. That’s not how we’re going to play,” Cassidy said. “Maybe it turned out it would have had to be a 1-0, 2-1 game tonight because offensively we weren’t getting there, but that’s fine. We’ve won our share; we’ve learned how to play those games. It seems like we weren’t going to be respectful of that, and the odd-man rushes, eventually they got us. I think Tuukka made some good saves on them, too.”

Rask, whose 21-game point streak came to an end with a 24-of-27 performance, was undoubtedly the lone positive in this game, as he came through with countless stops to keep this game within striking distance for the wildly (and strangely) disjointed Bruins.

“You know, as a goalie you prepare for the worst and you’re ready for everything,” admitted Rask. “I can’t even remember how long we’ve been playing solid in our neutral zone and not too many odd-man rushes but today obviously it was a different kind of game. Those games happen and I just got to be ready for everything.”

Summarized Cassidy: “Could have been a lot worse.”

It’s not the end of the world, obviously, as the Bruins are still 22 points above the playoff line even with this loss. It was actually their first real 'stinker' of a game since the Edmonton loss in late November, and a reminder that this team is still human and capable of absorbing a punch they won't always be able to make an in-game recovery from. 

"We have to focus on us, not the teams that were going to play against," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara noted. "But what we are going to do and how we are going to play and execute and do the the things that we hold each other accountable for. And we want to play to a certain standard. It shouldn’t matter who we play. It’s more about us being better, like we were tonight."

But it’s a performance that certainly needs to come with a strong response Sunday in Jersey should the Bruins avoid their first ‘slump’ in three months.

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