By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins got everything they needed from Patrice Bergeron and Jaroslav Halak in their return from the league’s holiday break, as the duo carried the Black and Gold to a 3-0 victory over the Sabres at KeyBank Center on Friday night.
Back in action following their three-day breather, Halak was tested early, with the highlight of an 11-save opening period coming with Halak’s sensational glove save on Marcus Johansson.
The B’s made sure Halak’s strong start did not go to waste, too, as Bergeron potted his first of the night on the power play thanks to a fantastic shot-fake from David Pastrnak, which opened Linus Ullmark’s cage up for Bergeron’s 16th goal of 2019.
And it was late in the second period, and off a Jimmy Vesey turnover, that Bergeron connected for his 17th goal of the year, snapped home after some great passing movement with Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, scored at the 18:26 mark of the period.
But the night would not be complete without a few more big stops from No. 41 in the Boston net, and with the B’s protecting a two-goal lead and down a man at the halfway point of the third period, in what finished as a 26-save shutout for Halak. The shutout was Halak’s third of the season, and the 50th of his NHL career.
The big story? Boston skated without both Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy available for this one; Krug was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury (meaning he’ll miss at least two more games), while McAvoy did not travel to Buffalo. The Bruins did note that McAvoy is not dealing with a concussion, which certainly seems like a positive after the thunderous hit he took from TJ Oshie on Monday. With Krug and McAvoy out, the Bruins were boosted by the return of Zdeno Chara (the B’s captain missed Monday’s game due to a jaw procedure) and emergency recall of depth defenseman Steven Kampfer.
The departure of the B’s top offensive movers on the backend led to the reunion of a true defense-first top pairing for the Bruins, too, as Chara skated to the left of Brandon Carlo as the team’s go-to unit against Sabres captain Jack Eichel. It was a matchup that certainly favored the Bruins, too, as they held Eichel to almost nothing at five-on-five play, with just two shots off Eichel’s stick (and two giveaways) in 17:10 of even-strength action by the night’s end.
Carlo, meanwhile, finished with team-high marks in shots (five), blocked shots (three), and time on ice (26:22) in the win, and even scored an empty-net goal as the cherry on the top (his fourth of the season).
With the win, the Bruins extended their point streak to six games (3-0-3), and more importantly now have wins in consecutive games for the first time since their eight-game winning streak from Nov. 19 through Dec. 3.
The Bruins will return to Boston to wrap up this home-and-home with a Sunday night rematch with the Sabres.