The Boston Bruins have had the Buffalo Sabres' number so far this season. The Bruins have out-hit, and practically manhandled the Blue and Gold in every contest this season.
Hank Tallinder and Max Afinogenov returned tonight from a two-game absence. Both were benched after the last time these two teams met.
Hank wasn't about to feel bad for himself, and Max wasn't about to tell the media he'd be better off playing for another team. There was no comment.
Nonetheless, both were back on the ice for the Sabres tonight against the surging B's. Nathan Paestch and Daniel Paille were scratched.
Buffalo came out swinging from the get-go. Derek Roy was back on the top line along with Drew Stafford and Thomas Vanek. Roy was noticeably one of Buffalo's top skaters, while constantly pressuring on the forecheck and getting good scoring chances.
He capitalized on a David Krejci mishap in front of the net in the first, when he snuck in and banked the puck into the empty net.
Later in the period, Roy roofed a wristshot off Thomas' shoulder and into the back of the net to make it 2-0, just as a Bruin penalty had expired.
Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta was also flying in this game. Buffalo has been outhit in the majority of the past 10 games, especially in the two games against Boston earlier this month.
Kaleta won the Carubba Collision at the HSBC Arena, but he also contributed about four or five more solid hits. The whole crew for Buffalo was willing to go up against Boston's tough guys, Milan Lucic and Big Z.
Boston was able to get on the board early in the second period. But just a minute later, with the Sabres shorthanded, Jochen Hecht ripped a slap shot from the top of the circle off of Thomas and across the goal line.
This was a huge lift for Buffalo and the fans. Pat Kaleta had just been given an iffy call for charging after apparently roughing up Thomas.
After two periods, the Sabres had the edge, with a 3-1 lead.
In the third, Boston spent a good portion of the first 10 minutes in the Buffalo zone. A wacky play eventually led to a goal by Phil Kessel, making it 3-2 with a lot of time to spare.
In the end, the Sabres were able to hold off the Bruins' attack and come out with just their second win in nine games. Ryan Miller was solid between the pipes for Buffalo as always.
A gritty performance finally paid off for Buffalo. They seemingly outplayed their past two opponents, the Flyers and Islanders, and came out on the losing end. This time, they were rewarded with their play and hopefully this will boost some confidence.
They are not officially out of their slump. If Thomas had stopped a couple of softies tonight, the game could have had a different outcome. They have another tough test Friday when Crosby and Company are in town to face-off at HSBC.
Oh yeah, and one last thing: How good is Milan Lucic?
I don't get to see him aside from when the Bruins play the Sabres or on Versus, but he owns Buffalo. Nine out of 10 times, he wins one-on-one battles. There were a few plays tonight he almost made look effortless out there.
I still think Buffalo equalled, if not had the edge on the B's in the hitting department tonight, but from what I saw, not many Sabres were getting an upper hand on No. 17 in white.
He is a physically gifted, and hard-nosed player. And it's just his second season in the league. This guy has a very nice future in the NHL.