BUFFALO, NY – Usually, it’s the Black & Gold who dominate the third period. A no-quit team who had skated into Friday night's game in Buffalo having outscored their opponents 15-5 in the final frame.
A team who - in the dying seconds - down two goals, still tirelessly defended an empty net with an extra attacker on to keep from any goals being added next to the Sabres on the board.
But it was too little, too late.
Heading into the third period with a 2-1 lead and a 2-0-0 record when leading after two periods - while the Sabres stat sheet showed a 1-5-1 record when trailing after two - the Bruins allowed the Northeast rivals to rally with three goals after take back control of the game.
With that, the B's have now surrendered eight third period goals on the season, seven of them coming against the Sabres. The other four came in the Bruins 7-4 loss to the Sabres back on January 31 at TD Garden, the team that somehow has been the only team to best the B's in regulation, handing them their only two losses in that fashion.
“I think the biggest thing for me in this game is after the second period we should’ve put them away,” Coach Julien said following the game, as he spoked to media outside the B's visiting locker room at First Niagara Center. “We talked about that."
"We’re not burying our chances and eventually it’s going to catch up. We’ve got some goal scorers that haven’t produced and when they’re not producing it just makes it tough."
Watching the game from the bird's eye view in the press box, it was easy to see chance…after chance…after chance. Whether a shot caromed off the post, skirted through the blue paint, found its way to the front of the net but somehow did not find the back, or was robbed by Ryan Miller, the puck couldn't get through.
Midway through the first period, it was Chris Kelly - still pressing for his first of the season - who was thwarted by Miller from point-blank range. Nearly three minutes later, it was Tyler Seguin with an opportunity in front, even diving on a second attempt to push the puck in.
It wasn't until two minutes and four seconds remained in the first that the B's solved Miller, with Dougie Hamilton scoring his first career NHL goal - probably the lone bright spot in the loss. But it was certainly bright.
Brad Marchand drew a tripping penalty on Drew Stafford as he stickhandled towards the goal, setting the B's up for their first of two power plays on the night. With under a minute left on the man advantage, Boston swarmed the goal and Seguin (who ended the night with three shots on goal and an apple next his name) found David Krejci from behind the net. The center's shot was then blocked by Miller, but came right back to him, in enough time for Krejci to find Hamilton jumping into the play at the top of the circles with Milan Lucic providing the screen in front. And Hamilton didn't miss.
"I can't really describe it," Hamilton said after the game. "Just a lot of excitement. I couldn't stop smiling - I guess, until the second period started - and shaking from all of the adrenaline."
"Just a lot of fun. And I'm glad I could get to do it in front of a lot of friends and family."
That adrenaline carried into the second period, as the B's jumped out to the 2-1 lead just 2:29 in, when a shot from Hamilton at the end boards took a leap right over the goal and Rich Peverley pounced on the "rebound" in front of Miller.
"Obviously just a bonus when one of your shots goes in and when one of your shots off the boards gets an assist," said the defenseman.
Despite outshooting the Sabres by a 17-6 margin in the second period, the B’s had trouble burying some golden opportunities to extend the lead, though they did keep the puck out of their own net heading into the third. Heading into tonight, they had held a 7-1-1 record when outshooting their opponents.
The stats didn't quite foreshadow the ending for the Bruins this time around. Combine not finding the finish to bury chances with the stellar - and at times unbelievable - play of Ryan Miller - and the recipe for a W was hard to conjure up in the third.
The B's faced a desperate Sabres team and were unable to match the intensity, managing just three shots on goal to Buffalo’s 10. Tyler Myers tied the score just 2:03 into the period and Christian Ehrhoff gave the Sabres the lead at 9:02, before Cody Hodgson put the game away with an insurance goal just over two minutes later that he banked in behind Khuodobin. The Bruins' No. 2 goaltender made his third start of the season, his second straight against the Sabres.
“We didn’t look desperate, we looked kind of flat,” said Peverley on the B's third period play. “It’s unacceptable for this team, we pride ourselves on being good in the third period, especially with the lead. We didn’t play well enough."
"In the third, to that point I thought we created a lot of chances," added Captain Zdeno Chara. "A lot of chances to score and put that game away - we didn’t, and going into the third we still had a one-goal lead. They just played with another gear when they scored and we couldn’t match it."
“When you have the opportunities we had, especially in the second period, there’s no way it should’ve been a 2-1 hockey game," said Coach Julien. "And you go into the third period, probably overconfident. You like your team to be confident, but you don’t want them to be overconfident."
“We came out there in the third and forgot to do the work and forgot the team that you were playing against was a desperate team. They came out desperate and they did what they had to do. We didn’t deserve this game.”
The Sabres have had the Bruins’ number during the final frame in two of the three meetings between the teams this season, and Shawn Thornton couldn't pin point a specific attribution to Buffalo's play.
“I’m sure they got a good talking to in between periods,” Thornton told gathered media postgame. “We didn’t have enough on our side. I think it’s pretty simple to see what happened. Three shots, four shots in the last frame of the game, after only having a one-goal lead isn’t good enough."
“Goes to show you can’t play a 40-minute game, you’ve got to play 60. We should be upset about it and learn from it at the same time. We talked about it, we knew they were going to be coming out hard. There’s no excuse.”
---Eric Russo contributed to this report
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