The Bruins’ first look at the 2021 Sabres confirmed what the standings already told us: The Sabres are a very, very bad professional hockey team. Extremely bad. Almost offensively bad, to be honest.
And the Bruins became just the latest team to take advantage of that, pounding Buffalo for a 4-1 final to hand the Sabres their 13th straight defeat (0-11-2), and first under interim head coach Don Granato.
Down Sean Kuraly following a positive COVID test, Kuraly’s fill-in, Greg McKegg, wasted no time making his presence felt with a tip-in through the Sabres’ Carter Hutton just 2:56 into the first period. The goal mapped out the blueprint for the Bruins’ success in this one, as a grinding effort forced a defensive-zone turnover that Matt Grzelcyk took advantage of to throw a shot towards Hutton’s cage and give McKegg his first goal in a B’s sweater.
Greg McKegg opens the scoring.— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 18, 2021
1-0 Bruins. pic.twitter.com/f8LAqBIidO
Tied at 1-1 through 20 minutes of action, the Bruins jumped back out front on a baseball-swing power-play goal from Jake DeBrusk (his second goal in his last four games), and then extended their lead to two behind a Craig Smith shot to cap what was a relentless shift that buried the Sabres in their end.
Smith’s tally ended what was a long drought for the 31-year-old wing, while David Krejci’s helper on the DeBrusk goal was good for the 700th point of his NHL career, making him just the eighth B’s player to hit that mark with the franchise.
The latter was certainly of more importance to Smith.
“Krejci’s one of the smartest players I’ve played with,” Smith said. “He sees these little plays out there that not many guys see. It’s been impressive. He has great eyes, great hands, and opens up a lot of area for players like myself.”
The Bruins added a fourth goal for good measure with a David Pastrnak bomb that banged in and out of Hutton’s net, and gave the Bruins a 2-for-5 mark on the man advantage. And though the Bruins now have power-play goals in five of their last six games, Thursday was their first night with multiple power-play tallies since a Feb. 18 loss to the Devils.
Buffalo’s only goal in the loss came on a shorthanded look from Kyle Okposo, with Okposo’s shot deflected off Grzelcyk’s stick and through Jaroslav Halak, who had committed going left to right to stop the (likely) path of an undeflected shot.
It was the lone blemish of what finished as a 23-for-24 night from Halak.
The Bruins, already ravaged by injuries, did suffer another in-game loss in the win, with winger Trent Frederic knocked out of action in the second period with an apparent lower-body injury.
Bruce Cassidy’s squad will remain in Buffalo for a Saturday rematch.