(WGR 550) – Once the Buffalo Sabres decided they weren’t going to let Nick Ritchie and the Bruins players push them through the end wall and out the back door of the arena, they played an inspired game and came from behind to earn a shootout point in Boston.
Ritchie pile-drove Riley Sheahan near the boards and smacked Rasmus Dahlin to the ice in the neutral zone as Cody Eakin watched and did nothing. Sheahan left for the dressing room, but came back to finish the second period. He didn’t play in the third period.
Buffalo had three power plays in the period, including a 28-second 5-on-3 advantage, and still got outshot, 11-5. They can thank Dustin Tokarski that they were still in the game.
Don Granato said during the intermission that he brought up how they were getting thrown all over the ice, but he said that the players were pretty upset about it. I give them full marks for showing up for the rest of the game.
It took less than three minutes into the second period for Matt Irwin to find Ritchie. Later in the second, Kevan Miller hit Rasmus Asplund into the glass with a head shot, and Tage Thompson immediately showed up. Miller’s a tough customer and beat Thompson to a pulp, but that doesn’t matter in the least. Thompson showed up for a teammate, and Granato said it was good to see in both cases.
Let’s be honest, Rasmus Dahlin didn’t have a good game, but there were two things that I really enjoyed about him on his 21st birthday.
In the third period, he walked the blue line with a magical move. He wound up with a shot that went off of former Sabres forward Curtis Lazar, then skipped off the ice to tie the game at 2-2.
The other thing I really admired is after the first period, Dahlin decided he was tired of getting pushed around and he initiated some hits. He stood up to every Bruin that tried to intimidate him. He finished the night with six hits, and is going to do just fine in this league if he keeps showing players that he won’t be intimidated.
This was Taylor Hall’s first game with the Bruins, and Boston fans got to see first hand what a bad player he has turned into. He had two blind drop passes to the Sabres, and then got very lucky on a third. Hall dropped the puck right to Colin Miller.
Hall fumbled with the puck in the second period, and it went right to Craig Smith for his ninth goal of the season. It was Smith who also scored the game-winning goal late in the Bruins' 3-2 victory over the Sabres last month.
Hall did have a 2-on-1 opportunity in overtime, but Tokarski made a nice save.
The player Buffalo got in the trade, Anders Bjork, had a wide-open net in overtime off a 2-on-1 pass from Kyle Okposo, but he made one too many moves and then never got a shot off, as he skated by the open net. He did say he’d love to have that one back.
It only took Bjork 1:52 to get his first point as a member of the Sabres. The winger raced in on the left wall to win a battle and put the puck all the way to the other side. I was surprised Bjork got an assist, because right before Dylan Cozens got the puck, it deflected off a Bruins player. Cozens found Miller at the point and he blasted it home to take a 1-0 lead.
It was nice to see both Bjork and Arttu Ruotsalainen right at the net in case there was a rebound.
The former Bruin played 13:55 in the game, getting one shot. After the game, he said it was weird to play against his old team, and he felt once he gets used to his new teammates and Granato’s system, he’ll play better.
Cozens did score on Jeremy Swayman in overtime, but the referee waived it off immediately as the puck was above the crossbar when he hit it out of the air with his stick. Cozens had just missed when Swayman stopped his redirect chance set up by Rasmus Ristolainen with a gorgeous pass from the wall.
There was another piece of this game that I really liked.
I never noticed one of the best goal scorers in the NHL until Miller set him up for a wide-open one-timer, which he fanned on. David Pastrnak was as quiet as I’ve ever seen him in a game. In 33 games this season, he has 16 goals and 16 assists for 32 points.
To be clear, Tokarski earned his team a point while they floundered through the first 40 minutes of the game. Buffalo was much better in the final 25 minutes. Tokarski made 29 saves in 60:06 of work. Linus Ullmark stopped all three shots he saw in 4:54. He had to leave the game with a lower-body injury.
Tokarski’s problem was the shootout. Jake DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle both beat him easily, while Thompson and Victor Olofsson both missed. Thompson is tied for the team lead, going 2-for-5 in shootouts, but it baffles me why Granato keeps using Olofsson. He’s 0-for-4.
Boston is now 3-0-0 against the Sabres this season, and 8-0-0 against them since Dec. 29, 2018.
Buffalo wraps up their season series against the Washington Capitals on Thursday night.