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The Buffalo Sabres start fights. The Boston Bruins finish them.
And they win games.
The Bruins have now won 10 games in a row and lead the Northeast division. They need just two points to catch the conference-leading Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Bruins entered Wednesday’s game as the highest-scoring third-period team in the NHL. And down 3-2 entering the third, they played like it, pounding the puck repeatedly at Sabre goalie Jhonas Enroth.
The Bruins’ offensive onslaught earned them a power play at 2:11, when center Derek Roy hooked Rich Peverley. Despite two shorthanded Buffalo shots to start the power play, Boston eventually worked the puck back towards Enroth.
Chara fired off a wristshot from 58 feet which Enroth deflected, but the puck came to David Krejci in the slot. Krejci opted not to shoot, instead passing to Milan Lucic just to the right of the goal post.
Lucic then sent the puck back to Chara at the blue line, and Chara fired off a powerful slapshot that sailed past Enroth to tie the game 3-3 at 3:35.
Following Chara’s goal, both sides played fantastic hockey, mixing in strong but legal hits with high-speed skating and solid passing. Both sides had opportunities to score, but Enroth and Tim Thomas combined for 20 third-period saves, robbing opponents in just about every possible way.
The Sabres’ couldn’t capitalize on Krejci’s hooking penalty in the final minute of regulation, nor could they do so with a minute of 4-on-3 hockey to start overtime.
The game went to a shootout, and both Enroth and Thomas turned aside the first four shooters they faced.
Thomas faced right winger Drew Stafford to start the fifth round, making a glove-side save to set up Pouliot for a possible game-winner. Pouliot then took the puck between the circles, firing off a quick-release wristshot above Enroth’s glove to win the game.
Enroth had never lost a shootout before Wednesday.
The Bruins started the second period down 2-0 following power play goals from Christian Ehrhoff and Thomas Vanek in a first period in which the Sabres out-skated, out-passed, and out-hit the Bruins. That momentum lasted just three minutes into the second, when Corey Tropp hooked Daniel Paille.
Less than 30 seconds later, the Bruins got on the board when Peverley passed from the goal line to Patrice Bergeron at the blue line. Bergeron then cross-passed the ice to Tyler Seguin, who ripped a powerful slapshot from just beyond the left circle into the goal to put the Bruins on the board at 3:37.
The goal gave Seguin 22 points in 19 games this season. He finished his rookie season with 21 points in 74 games.
Though Sabre T.J. Brennan scored the first goal of his career 11 minutes into the period, Brad Marchand answered with four minutes left, lifting the rebound from a Bergeron shot under the crossbar to keep it a one-goal game.
Fighting should be a tool hockey players use to motivate their teammates and inspire tougher play. But it shouldn’t ever replace actual hockey.
When Paul Gaustad charged Lucic early in the first, the resulting fight was anything but motivating. It was a moronic, petty attempt by Gaustad to exact “ice justice” on Lucic for Lucic’s unpunished hit on Sabre goalie Ryan Miller.
Before that fight, the Sabres had kept the puck entirely near Thomas and the Bruin goal. After the fight – which Lucic clearly won – the Bruins took control of the game, at least until a multi-player brawl with indiscernible origins somehow earned the Sabres a power play.
In effect, Gaustad traded actual, solid hockey for a bestial, mating-dance-like fight.
As stupid as that fight was – as little as it actually solved – it at least looked entertaining. When six or seven players went at it 11 minutes in, the result was a boring scrum that looked far more like an orgy than a battle. Watching people’s backs for several minutes isn’t fun, no matter what might be happening underneath the pile.
Minutes-long stoppages for ridiculous fights like Wednesday’s take away from the viewing experience and the quality of play. Instead of improving game-play, they just inhibit what makes hockey actually great.
Tags: Benoit Pouliot, Boston Bruins, Brad Marchand, Buffalo Sabres, christian ehrhoff, corey tropp, Daniel Paille, David Krejci, Derek Roy, Drew Stafford, jhonas enroth, Milan Lucic, NHL, Patrice Bergeron, paul gaustad, Rich Peverley, Ryan Miller, t.j. brennan, Thomas Vanek, Tim Thomas, Tyler Seguin, Zdeno Chara