OPINION: Luukkonen stars again as Sabres earn biggest win of season in Boston

Alex Tuch's overtime goal extended the Sabres' winning streak to six games

(WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres got their biggest win of the season against the Bruins on Saturday in Boston, and there were many things that helped them get it.

It all starts with the goaltending of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. In his last three road games, he has beaten the Bruins, Vegas Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche.

After a rough start, the young goalie has for the second year in a row, earned a place on this roster. He didn’t get it last time and with Eric Comrie in Rochester on a conditioning assignment, another decision is coming.

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Buffalo had to weather the storm in the first period, and Luukkonen stood tall, making huge saves on Trent Frederic, Nick Foligno, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

Boston entered the third period down 2-1 and poured 19 shots on Luukkonen. Many of those shots came as a result of the huge penalty mess the Sabres got themselves into.

Kyle Okposo had a brain cramp and took a bad boarding penalty just 4:48 in. Patrice Bergeron capitalized shortly after to tie the game at 2-2.

Later in the period while trailing 3-2, JJ Peterka took a double minor for high sticking at 13:24, and just three seconds later, Ilya Lyubushkin took another high sticking penalty, giving Boston a full two-minute 5-on-3 advantage.

Luukkonen was stellar during the penalty kill, making five saves, including one on Pastrnak, who stole the puck from Tage Thompson and went in alone.

Buffalo killed that off, but still had two more minutes of Peterka’s penalty. They got through that too, which gave the Sabres huge momentum and 4:36 to tie the game.

Remember, Boston came into the game 18-0-3 at home this season. Buffalo was 0-7-2 in their last nine at TD Garden, and 1-14-3 in their last 18 against the Bruins.

Sabres head coach Don Granato pulled Luukkonen for the extra attacker, and Dylan Cozens ripped one through Jeremy Swayman from the right circle that the Bruins goalie would want back. That goal tied the game at 3-3 with 1:37 left.

The overtime saw both teams get possessions, and then Cozens did something that’s rarely ever done: He took the puck away from Bergeron, who is maybe the best two-way forward to ever play in the NHL.

Cozens turned on the jets and skated down the left wing side, while Alex Tuch came through the slot. Cozens gave him a perfect pass, and Tuch had his second goal of the game and 17th of the season for the win.

Tuch had his second four-point game of the season, giving him 39 points in 34 games. In 2022, Tuch played 82 games, scoring 29 goals and 27 assists for 76 points.

The 26-year-old made a really nice sweep check in the first period, sending the puck to Jeff Skinner, who found Tage Thompson to help Buffalo tie the game at 1-1.

In the 2022 calendar year, Thompson played 80 games, scoring 53 goals and 99 points.

Skinner’s assist extended his points streak to 10 games. During that time, he has eight goals and nine assists for 17 points.

This team doesn’t shy away from the tough game. Talking to Cozens for our pregame show, he talked about how excited he was to go into Boston to play the No. 1 team in the league.

“Our team is super excited for that game," said Cozens on Friday. "We want to show the league and show everyone that we’re a real competitor in this league, and that we’re a legit team and can beat anyone and never take us lightly. So we’re going to go out there and take it to them.”

Luukkonen made 37 saves in this game, including 17 saves in the third period. In Vegas, he made 41 saves, including 21 saves in the third period. In Colorado, he stopped 39 pucks, including 15 saves in the third.

Another big lift for the Sabres came in the second period when Krebs pasted Taylor Hall into the wall with a clean hit. At first, I thought Connor Clifton, who is a tough customer, made Krebs answer for a clean hit. When I saw the replay, it was Krebs who went straight for Clifton and immediately dropped the gloves.

Krebs didn’t win the fight, but he stood tall, and despite having a little blood trickling down his face, gave a scream and a huge fist pump to the bench.

When Frederic came in on Luukkonen in the first period while killing a penalty, he made no effort at all to avoid Luukkonen and bowled him over. Dahlin immediately cross-checked the Bruins' toughest player, letting him know that they weren’t going to put up with it.

Buffalo has now won six-straight games, and they’re 10-6-0 on the road.

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Immediately after the afternoon game, the Sabres left for Ottawa for a game against the Senators on New Year's Day. Buffalo has the advantage, because Ottawa is in Detroit on Saturday night and won’t get home until late.

Buffalo lost in Ottawa, 4-1, but opened the season with a big 4-1 win over the Senators. Craig Anderson made 35 saves to win that game, and with this being a back-to-back situation, I would expect Anderson to be in goal on Sunday.

Join Brian Koziol and me for pregame coverage on WGR on Sunday starting at 6 p.m. EST.

Photo credit Losi and Gangi
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