Craig Smith and the Boston Bruins enjoyed a field day at the expense of the Buffalo Sabres.
The Bruins pounded the Sabres 6-2 on Saturday at TD Garden in the teams’ final meeting of the 2020-21 NHL season. The Bruins’ two points move them above the New York Islanders into third place in the East Division. Boston now leads the fifth-place New York Rangers by eight points.
Smith led the charge with a hat trick. Sean Kuraly, Patrice Bergeron and Nick Ritchie each scored once. Riley Sheahan and Arttu Ruotsalainen scored for the Sabres.
Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman made 17 saves. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 29 saves, and Dustin Tokarski made 14 for the Sabres.
The win improves the Bruins’ record to 30-14-6. The Sabres fall to 13-32-7.
Here’s how it all went down:
B’S LEAD AFTER ONE
Another game, another early goal for the Bruins.
Smith put Boston up 1-0 just 1:21 into the period when he tapped home David Krejci’s pass from just outside the crease. The goal was a by-product of Taylor Hall’s patience and his and Krejci’s on-the-money passing.
However, Sheahan tied the game for Buffalo with 7:25 remaining with a shorthanded, breakaway goal. He jumped out of the penalty box, picked up a loose puck and beat Swayman.
Not long before the end of the period Kuraly gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead and ended his 31-game goal drought. Nick Ritchie’s deflected shot fell kindly to Kuraly in front of the net, and he beat Luukkonen with a quick shot with 3:22 remaining.
Although the score suggested otherwise, the Bruins dominated the first period, outshooting the Sabres 17-4.
KNOCK, THEN ENTER
The Bruins threatened early in the second period, with Jake DeBrusk hitting the post.
Bergeron increased Boston’s lead to 3-1 when he pounced on a rebound 5:36 into the period, just 14 seconds after DeBrusk came close. Jeremy Lauzon and Brad Marchand assisted Bergeron’s goal.
Boston largely controlled play and created more scoring chances than Buffalo throughout the period.
The Bruins outshot the Sabres 12-7 in the second period and led Buffalo 29-11 in shots after two periods.
LEFT IN THE DUST
Luukkonen suffered an injury in the dying seconds of the period. Dustin Tokarski replaced him as the Sabres goaltender and entered the shooting gallery.
Ritchie beat Tokarski early in the period when he deflected Matt Grzelcyk’s shot, extending Boston’s lead to 4-1 3:18 into the period.
Smith scored his second of the game just 2:13 later. Mike Reilly’s excellent pass to Krejci opened the Sabres’ defense, and Smith made the most of the golden opportunity in front of Buffalo’s net.
Ruotsalainen stuffed home a rebound to cut Boston’s lead to 5-2 at the 7:02 mark.
Buffalo might have made things more interesting had Swayman not made a big save on Sam Reinhart’s effort with 10:59 remaining.
Smith completed his hat trick on the power-play with 5:55 left to play. Krejci notched his third assist of the game on the play.
It’s Smith’s second career hat trick and first with the Bruins, whom he joined last October as a free agent. He now has scored 13 goals in 2020-21.
The win extended the Bruins’ winning streak to three games.
The Bruins head to New Jersey where they’ll begin a two-game set against the Devils on Monday. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.