Are the Buffalo Sabres and the Northeast Division really going to be a different animal than in recent years?
All signs from Thursday night indicate as much, as the Boston Bruins commenced their divisional slate with their first regulation loss of 2012-13. They failed to get away with a couple of missteps that had not hindered them in their first half-dozen games.
Unlike Monday night’s dramatic 5-3 triumph in Carolina, they could not permanently repossess the upper hand after spilling a 3-1 advantage. Unlike on three other occasions, they could not salvage a point, never mind two, after surrendering the first goal, falling to 2-1-1 in that scenario.
From changes in the line chart to a change in the “L” column that was bound to happen at some point, here are the top lessons for Claude Julien’s pupils as they sweep up the shards of a 7-4 falter.
The volatile, swaying complexion of Thursday’s tilt obliterated any existing secret that this was Boston’s first divisional duel on the docket this season. As such, the Bruins should know in the wake of this contest that they will need to squeeze harder to harness any momentum they attain in these matchups.
The beginning of the demise of a two-goal lead in the second period arrived less than five minutes after Marchand’s second unanswered strike had made it 3-1. Two simultaneously cited penalties put Boston on a two-minute, two-man disadvantage, of which they could only kill half, allowing Buffalo to slice its deficit in half.
It only took 93 seconds for play to stop again, and again by virtue of a shot eluding Rask a mere 34 ticks after full strength was restored.
While a shortage of discipline evaporated that initial lead, a shortage of defensive proficiency promptly abolished a 4-3 lead in the tone-setting phases of the third. Gregory Campbell’s giveaway was recorded 32 seconds after teammate David Krejci had restored Boston’s advantage and 11 seconds before Alexander Sulzer took it away.
Reeling off the last point regarding Campbell’s costly turnover, numerous goals Thursday night were a product of various changes in possession.
Boston drew a 1-1 knot at 5:12 of the second period courtesy of Rich Peverley, whose associate Chris Kelly had just logged a takeaway four seconds prior.
Marchand’s first goal was immediately preceded by a Dennis Seidenberg hit on Tyler Ennis in the dying seconds of a Bruins penalty kill. His second strike came three seconds after Tyler Seguin usurped the puck.
Krejci’s go-ahead marker, set up by Nathan Horton, fell five seconds after a giveaway by Buffalo blueliner Tyler Myers.
Although it was in a losing cause, Daniel Paille’s elevation to the Kelly-Peverley line in lieu of Chris Bourque was a boon for Boston.
Entering Thursday’s action, Kelly and Peverley had combined for zero goals and two assists on 25 shots on goal.
By night’s end, they had each doubled their point total as Peverley converted one of his six registered stabs. At 5:12 of the middle frame, he polished off a play that began with a Kelly takeaway (one of three steals for him on the night) and a rebound left by Paille.
Peverley’s goal got the Bruins on the board and proved to perk up the strike force, letting them pull ahead within 6:05 of falling behind.
On the follow-up shift, Peverley was penalized for cross-checking Jochen Hecht after taking another shot on Ryan Miller. But once that shorthanded segment was killed, Marchand and Patrice Bergeron began clicking, the former tucking home two feeds in as many shifts in a span of 3:11 from the latter.
If the circumstances permit, Julien might as well stick to the same bottom six as long as momentum (there’s that key word again) is siding with the Kelly-Paille-Peverley troika.
This was just one of those nights for towering, leaned-on defenseman Zdeno Chara, who took the second of those concomitant penalties opposite Milan Lucic, at 15:45 of the second period.
Besides his holding infraction, Chara was a team-worst, uncharacteristic minus-three. He failed to land a single hit and also committed three giveaways. The last of those turnovers came 26 seconds before Thomas Vanek completed his hat trick and gave Buffalo its first dose of insurance in the penultimate minute of the action.
To no small extent, as Chara went, so went Boston on this night.
Again, this will happen on occasion in any given season, but that does not diminish the consequences of the captain’s struggles on this night against a fast, feisty divisional rival.