See what happens when you play a strong third period!?
Wins have been evading the Bruins as of late, but a three point performance from Ryan Spooner carried the team to a 4-1 victory over the Sabres Friday night in Buffalo.
Spooner tallied a goal and two assists, and is now riding a three-game point streak. He has 11 points over his last 8 games overall, and is forming some nice chemistry with Matt Beleskey on the second line.
Back-up goaltender Jonas Gustavsson stepped in and played a fantastic game. His last appearance against the Sabres was one to forget, when he allowed 4 goals on 27 shots during a 6-3 collapse on December 26. On Friday, he stopped 33 of 34 shots and looked confident and poised, even as the Sabres put on a final push in an attempt to get back into the game.
The two teams battled to a 1-1 tie through 40 minutes. The B’s entered this game with a 2-7-1 record in their last ten games, and had blown third period leads in back-to-back games, so they were especially desperate for two points.
Just 29 seconds into the final frame, Zdeno Chara received a pass from Spooner off an offensive zone face-off, and took a seeing-eye shot from the point that beat Robin Lehner over the glove.
This marked Big Z’s sixth goal of the season, and eventually proved to be the game-winning goal.
Buffalo opened the scoring during a first period that had a lot of Bruins fans yelling, “Wake up!” A turnover behind his own goal by Colin Miller led to a wrap-around goal by David Legwand late in the first. Turnovers in the defensive zone are becoming a trend for the Bruins, and this is a trend that absolutely can not continue if the team wants to stay in the playoff race.
Thankfully, the Bruins did wake up in the second period, and tied the game 1:01 in. Spooner found himself on a partial breakaway from the blue line, and his shot left a rebound for Beleskey, who made no mistake firing it home.
Beleskey has consistently been one of the Bruins’ top performers over the past month or so. He has been bringing his skating game night in and night out, and his physical forechecking makes a big difference by freeing up pucks for his line mates. It is nice to see him rewarded with a goal.
Spooner added the insurance goal half way through the third period, when he flung a shot on goal from the sideboards that found its way through Lehner.
When you’re hot, you’re hot.
The final nail in the coffin was hammered in by…wait for it…BRETT CONNOLLY! It was just an empty netter, but we will take it. I wouldn’t normally include a gif of an empty net goal, but who knows when we will see another goal from Connolly.
Sick hands and a beautiful finish by the former sixth overall pick who was sent to Boston for two second round picks. TWO. This was his first goal in 21 games, and his second in 33. He has a total of six goals and nine assists on the season. TWO SECOND ROUND PICKS.
The Bruins finish their five-game road trip with a 2-2-1 record. That is an extremely frustrating stat given the way those losses came. If not for two third period chokes, they could have been heading home riding high with nine of ten possible points.
However, this win should serve as a building block for the foreseeable future. You can play great third periods. You can hold leads. Now keep it going.
The TD Garden ice crew will finally be back to work on Saturday as the Leafs come to town. Toronto is also on the second game of a back-to-back, after falling 4-1 to the Blackhawks Friday night. The Leafs have lost four straight games; Let’s make it five.
[Photo via foxsports.com]