OPINION: Sabres made too many third period mistakes to lose in Boston

Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen faced 39 shots to fall to 1-2-0 in three starts

(WGR 550) – The Buffalo Sabres lost 5-2 on Thursday in Boston to the Bruins, but the game was much closer than that.

Almost eight minutes into the third period, this was a 2-2 games with the teams taking turns carrying the play.

Buffalo tied the game in the third period when Victor Olofsson and Jeff Skinner outworked three Bruins behind the net and found Sam Reinhart in front for his 23rd goal of the season. Reinhart had seven shots on goal for the game.

The problems came after that.

Reinhart turned the puck over in the neutral zone to Charlie Coyle, who walked in alone and beat Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.

Buffalo was still in good shape after that, but Tuukka Rask was huge all game.

The goal that put it away was David Krejci teaching Rasmus Dahlin and Henri Jokiharju huge lessons. Krejci completely undressed both of them, creating a 2-on-0 rush. He dished the puck to former Sabres forward Taylor Hall, who deposited the puck into an empty net.

Brad Marchand finished things up with a shorthanded empty net goal. Marchand became the second player in NHL History to score 14 regular season goals in the month of April. Alex Ovechkin was the only other player to do it.

The first period was different than most periods you see in the NHL. Boston started fast and used a Dahlin turnover at center ice to score just 1:16 in on a perfect passing play that gave David Pastrnak a layup. Boston led in shots 5-1, and then the Sabres forced numerous turnovers and outshot Boston, 10-1. Things flipped again with Boston getting the final seven shots of the period.

Before that happened, Rasmus Asplund forced Pastrnak into a turnover, getting the puck to Arttu Ruotsalainen. His bullet was stopped by Rask, but he kicked the rebound right out to Mittelstadt and he had a wide-open net.

Before the game, Don Granato put Tage Thompson on Riley Sheahan’s line, put Ruotsalainen on Mittelstadt’s line and put Drake Caggiula out there with Dylan Cozens. I thought both Ruotsalainen and Caggiula looked good on their new lines.

Thompson only played three shifts in the third period, and one was when the game was out of reach. Thompson played 7:42 on the night.

Will Borgen and Jacob Bryson were on the ice for both Buffalo goals and none for Boston.

Luukkonen had faced 40 or more shots in both of his starts before Thursday. Boston put 39 shots on him, but Granato said that prime scoring chances-against have been cut way down.

Bad luck killed Luukkonen at the end of the first period when Krejci’s power play one-timer went off the post, hit the back of the big goaltender and slid over the line with just .04 seconds left. That goal came after a Reinhart tripping penalty.

With 69 points, both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals clinched playoff spots in the East, while the Philadelphia Flyers, in my eyes, were surprisingly eliminated. The New York Islanders are in third place, four points back, while the Bruins are in fourth, five points out of first place.

Buffalo wraps up its season series with Boston on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET.

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