BOSTON — The month of December has featured plenty of quality performances from the Bruins. Saturday night’s was not one of them.
The Bruins led the Buffalo Sabres by two goals with less than 10 minutes remaining in the third period, only to completely collapse, surrendering five unanswered goals as Buffalo pulled away for a 6-3 win at TD Garden.
“That was our team not respecting the game of hockey,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “When you take a lead like that and you make some of those plays that we made, you’ve got yourselves to blame.”
Though Sabres winger Evander Kane opened the scoring five minutes into the second period, the Bruins responded with two goals in the following 1:52 to leap ahead. A highlight-reel goal by David Krejci at the 6:59 mark of the third appeared to put Boston, which had blown a two-goal third-period lead only once this season, in the driver’s seat.
But just over four minutes later, that cushion was gone.
Ryan O’Reilly snuck the rebound of an intentionally wide shot by Mike Weber past Bruins goaltender Jonas Gustavsson to cut the lead to one, and Jack Eichel — the North Chelmsford, Mass., native playing against his hometown team for the first time — netted the equalizer 39 seconds later.
“It was a very poor effort by us, especially in the third period,” Bruins winger Brad Marchand said. “We had that game wrapped up. We should have played a lot tighter than we did when we had that 3-1 lead. We definitely blew it there. We know that.”
Eichel’s goal, which bounced off Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller’s skate before skittering past Gustavsson, turned the momentum fully in the Sabres’ favor. With Boston reeling, O’Reilly sent a wraparound shot on net that deflected off Zdeno Chara’s stick and straight to Jamie McGinn, who sent what proved to be the game-winner into the top of the net.
Empty-net goals by Eichel, who led all scorers with a career-high four points, and O’Reilly salted away the win for Buffalo and saddled Boston with its second consecutive loss.
“I think it’s definitely, hopefully, an eye opener for a lot of guys that we’re not even close to being where we want to be,” Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. “We’ve got to be a lot better, and we’ve got to be consistent. And by doing that, it’s about being professional and playing for 60 minutes.”
With the Montreal Canadiens continuing their fiery tailspin with another defeat Saturday night, the Bruins had a chance to vault into first place in the Atlantic Division. And for the second time in as many games, they were unable to capitalize.
Now, Boston is stuck looking up at two teams in the standings: the Canadiens and the Detroit Red Wings, who used a win over the Nashville Predators to leapfrog both of their division foes.
Another divisional matchup — the first of a home-and-home with the Ottawa Senators — awaits the Bruins on Sunday. A repeat of Saturday’s performance will not be acceptable to anyone in the Boston dressing room.
“Good teams,” center David Krejci said, “shouldn’t do what we did tonight.”
Thumbnail photo via Michael Dwyer/Associated Press
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