Well, it didn’t take Buffalo Sabres’ newly acquired enforcer John Scott very long to pick a fight with the Boston Bruins….but after the gloves were dropped and the time served, Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek delivered the real message.
Vanek scored a hat trick and helped on two other goals as the Buffalo Sabres overcame a 3-1 deficit in the 2nd period, and 4-3 early in the third, blitzing Boston goalie Tuukkaa Rask for 4 unanswered goals in the final frame for a solid 7-4 road win.
Scott and fellow ice-bully Steve Ott were picked up by the Sabres in the offseason for what coach Lindy Ruff suggested was just about “…overall team toughness, make us a grittier team.” – but with the truth being that you build your team to compete in your division, it was really all about being able to mix it up with the big, bad Bruins.
At 17:07 of the 1st period Scott dropped gloves with Bruins’ tough guy Shawn Thonton in a fight that seemed less about sending a message and more about just getting it out of the way. Fisticuffs were expected in part due to the Milan Lucic hit on Sabres’ goalie Ryan Miller last season, but once Scott clearly got the better of Thornton, the rough stuff gave way to some clean skating.
After serving his time in the penalty box, Thornton retreated to the locker room and didn’t return – so whether a statement was intended for the Bruins or not, they received it – in more ways than one.
The first period passed by without score or incident, suggesting perhaps a defensive struggle was in store for the 17,565 fans at TD Garden – but what they got in the 2nd and 3rd periods was a scoring free-for-all that resembled an All Star weekend skills competition, and defense be damned…
Vanek scored on a one timer from the left wing at 1:38 of the second to give the Sabres the initial lead. Boston’s Rich Peverley scored on a wrister at 5:12 of the second as he picked up the rebound from a shot, floated back just beyond the high spot and flicked the puck into the net from 15 feet out for his first on the year.
Two minutes later Brad Marchand scored on a beautiful individual effort taking the puck at the blue line, sweeping in from the right wing with a nice puck fake that allowed him to flash by the defense – traversed the crease and switched to the backhand on a hesitation move to flick the puck into the net for a 2-1 Bruins advantage.
Marchand scored again just over three minutes later, slipping a rebound past Miller who was screened by Tyler Seguin for a 3-1 Boston lead. Miller would give up one more the rest of the way, making some incredible saves in the face of a blistering Bruins sniper attack, stopping 38 of 42 Boston shots.
The Bruins had all of the momentum, then Lucic was called for Boarding and Zdeno Chara was called for a hold during the delayed penalty giving the Sabres the two man advantage – and just over one minute into the advantage Vanek’s second goal, a skate deflection off a drive from Christian Ehrhoff got the Sabres back to within one score -
Then just as Boston returned to full strength, Vanek assisted with a gorgeous pass across the crease to Tyler Ennis who wristed it in to tie the match at 3-3, seemingly deflating the Bruins.
David Krejci did start the scoring in the final frame for the Bruins as he swept in from the right, floated across the middle and wristed one off of Miller’s skate at 18:15 for a 4-3 lead…but just seconds later Alexander Sulzer tied it for the Sabres with a rocket from the high spot that Boston netminder Tuukka Rask, who stopped just 25 of 31 shots, never saw.
Cody Hodgson scored at 13:06 to give the Sabres their first lead since the beginning of the second, trailing on an odd-man rush and taking a drop pass from Vanek, poking the puck past Rask for his fourth of the year.
Vanek finished the contested scoring, intercepting the puck at the midline and skating unimpeded to the crease where he shuffled the puck from his forehand to his backhand and flipped it over the sprawling Rask for the 6-4 lead, followed by an empty netter by Jason Pominville with 15 seconds left in the match and an impressive 7-4 win.
Sabres’ coach Lindy Ruff rubbed a little salt in the Bruins’ wounds by taking a time out with seven seconds remaining to let his players savor the win – and a statement win it was for the Sabres, who raised their record 3-3-1 and ending their four game winless streak after a 2-0-0 start.
Boston lost their first game in regulation this year, dropping to 5-1-1, and now must travel to Toronto for a Saturday face off with the Maple Leafs, then jump over to Montreal for a skate with the Canadiens next week.
A rematch with the Sabres in Buffalo looms a week from Sunday, and you can bet that there will be some gamesmanship on the part of the Bruins over Ruff’s late time out, plus a score to settle on the tote board…