The good news is that the Sabres won’t be a problem for the Bruins in the playoffs. The bad news is that the Sabres are a reason the Bruins’ road to the playoffs may be a little trickier.
For the third time this season, the Sabres — who entered Tuesday dead last in the NHL with just 45 points — took the Bruins to overtime. For the first time, the Sabres wound up on the winning side as the B’s took just one point away in a 2-1 shootout loss on a night in which the Senators continued to close in on Boston’s playoff spot.
Though the Bruins outshot the Sabres, 26-7, over the first two periods (and 38-21 in regulation), they had only Loui Eriksson’s first-period goal to show for their offensive efforts in regulation. The Sabres finally took advantage of the opportunity they were provided when Rasmus Ristolainen scored a power play goal 1:23 into the third period as Carl Soderberg sat in the penalty box for hooking Matt Moulson in the final periods of the second period.
With the shootout loss, the Bruins improved to 83 points this season. They sit three points behind the Capitals for the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, though the Bruins do have one game in hand on Washington.
More importantly, the Senators’ win over the Hurricanes Tuesday means they have 79 points on the season through 69 games and trail the Bruins by four points for the second wild-card spot with one game in hand. The teams will meet Thursday night in a contest that could play a huge role in determining which team ultimately sees the postseason.
Here are four more things we learned Tuesday:
2 Us, 2 Ks, 2 sore
… Or that’s how the Bruins explained it, anyway. The team recalled Jeremy Smith on an emergency basis Tuesday and did not dress Tuukka Rask for the game at all.
The Bruins shared no information on Rask’s status during the day (though he did partake in morning skate), but they announced early in the game that their usual starter had missed the game with “general soreness.”
If that simply means that Rask’s tired, that’s fair enough. Sunday’s start against the Capitals brought Rask to 58 games played on the season, tying the career-high he set last season. There’s still 12 games remaining in the season, so he’ll eclipse that mark easily.
That said, it was wise for the B’s to choose Tuesday as a day to rest Rask and give Niklas Svedberg a rare start. The team has another three-in-four coming up, as they’ll face the Senators Thursday, the Panthers Saturday and the Lightning Sunday.
ERIKSSON STAYS HOT
Eriksson scored the Bruins’ only goal of regulation, as he took a puck off an Adam McQuaid shot that bounced off Andre Benoit’s skate and then the end boards and jammed it past Anders Lindback.
The goal was Eriksson’s fourth goal in the last eight games. It also gave him 18 goals on the season. His 30-goal days may be over, but Eriksson should easily hit the 20-goal mark in his first fully healthy season with the B’s.
… AND SODERBERG GETS A LITTLE WARMER?
Carl Soderberg’s goal-less streak reached 24 games Tuesday, but he did pick up the secondary assist on Eriksson’s goal by winning an offensive-zone faceoff and getting the puck to McQuaid.
That assist made for just his sixth point during his current slump.
Soderberg finished the game with four shots on goal, and though he took the penalty that led to Buffalo’s third-period goal, his line with Chris Kelly and Eriksson had a dominant shift late in overtime in which the B’s had chance after chance.
BERGERON CLOSING IN ON CAREER-HIGH IN PENALTY MINUTES
With a third-period hooking penalty against Johan Larsson, Patrice Bergeron picked up his 39th and 40th penalty minutes of the season. That brings him within three of the career-high he set last season.
Bergeron’s penalty came at a critical time, as the B’s had squandered their lead minutes earlier. Furthermore, Bergeron is Boston’s best penalty killer not named Tuukka Rask (who was not playing) or Zdeno Chara.
Fortunately for Bergeron and the B’s, no damage was done on the ensuing power play. Chris Kelly hit the post on a shorthanded bid, while Svedberg made a timely save on Brian Gionta on the doorstep.