Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports

Sabres 5, Bruins 4: Blowing three-goal lead latest setback to haunt Bruins

Ty Anderson
October 21, 2017 - 11:56 pm

Gifted one of the league’s easiest schedules out of the gate, and with enough days off to successfully plan yourself a vacation, the Bruins looked the part of a more than comfortable team on Saturday night. The results did not back up that look, however, as the Bruins blew a three-goal lead en route to a 5-4 overtime loss to the Sabres.

You couldn’t blame them for their initial comfort, I suppose, as the Bruins jumped out to a 3-0 lead just 20:37 into the game, with a jam-it-in goal from David Pastrnak, an unassisted, entirely-too-easy power-play goal from Brad Marchand one second into the advantage, and then a Marchand roofer scored just 37 seconds into the middle frame.

And even when the Sabres scored their first goal of the game to bring themselves back within two, Pastrnak’s second of the night came just 3:21 later to restore their lead.

But the Bruins simply forgot that this was a 60-minute game despite their three-goal lead (or maybe because of their three-goal edge), it appeared, as the Sabres simply took over in the late stages of the second period (Jack Eichel banged a rebound hom for his fourth goal of the season at 16:07), and carried it into the third and overtime.

“I think they wanted the puck more than we did,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after the loss, which prevented this club from their first winning streak of the season. “A lot of guys in the room have had leads. We had a lead two nights ago, four goals. We had two goals in the third. We gave up a couple late in the second but we settled it down and played the way we are supposed to. What we discussed between periods is making smart decisions with the puck, not, get it out at all costs and sort it out from there. I think as it went along, you could see that it’s just hard to reel it back in for whatever reason.”

The Sabres moved within one behind Benoit Pouliot’s first goal of the season, and Evander Kane scored with just 2:08 left in the third period, just 10 seconds after the Bruins successfully killed off a Brandon Carlo interference penalty.

“I like shots, like probably every other goalie, but they were crashing the net,” Anton Khudobin said. “They were going hard. There were a lot of deflections, a lot of rebounds, scrums in front of the net. That’s the dangerous part, not just the shots.”

The Bruins were thoroughly dominated in the overtime frame, too, as the Sabres peppered Khudobin for six shots, while the Bruins failed to put a single shot on Robin Lehner. There were times where Khudobin could’ve given his team a much needed break, too, such as when a Rasmus Ristolainen shot went off his puck and kept the play going. The Sabres, naturally, scored just seconds later, behind Ryan O’Reilly’s goal.

“That was another instance that the second half, the third period plus overtime, where we needed to calm the game down,” Cassidy said of the Khudobin non-whistle. “Whether it’s a face-off, even right before the overtime goal, we had opportunities to get possession out of that pile. And they came out with it. They were hungrier than us. Late, they won more pucks. If we win that puck out of that pile, we might not be talking about losing. Maybe we get out of trouble and it goes our way. We’ll never know.”

This was the one thing that really came back to hurt the Bruins, too, as Khudobin’s failure to cover the puck up continued Torey Krug’s shift for another extended bit, which helped clear the way for the game-winning goal, and a 2:15 shift for the puck-mover.

“It’s survival mode. Trying to be patient and jump when you can. I thought I had an opportunity to win a battle in the corner on that loose puck. Just trying to swat away and all of a sudden it comes out the other side and just couldn’t overcome,” Krug admitted. “That’s survival mode. Especially when they were able to make changes like they were. We just got to stay calm, composed, and make sure we’re not getting beat one-on-one. We obviously managed it for a while, but we just couldn’t get the puck back.”

How this all happened, though, remains out of character given the circumstances.

The Sabres played last night while the Bruins rested, and this was game No. 9 of the season for the Sabres and just the seventh game for the Bruins. The Bruins were at home -- and holding a three-goal lead (I cannot emphasize this one enough) -- and had the Sabres dead to rights after the second Pastrnak goal. Even down David Krejci, who was a late scratch, this is a Buffalo group the B’s should have had no problem with.

“I don’t know. Obviously we have to do a better job,” Krug said of the B’s failing to protect their lead. “Two-goal lead in your own building, it’s got to be the hardest place for the opposing team to come in and overcome that. We got to be better.”

And stop looking comfortable with what’s quickly become an uncomfortable situation given the increasing number of points this team has already found ways to drop.

Now against divisional opponents, no less.

The Bruins will return to the ice Thursday night against the Sharks.

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