Entering the third period down by one against a team that entered play with 16 straight losses and a top line centered by Jean-Sebastien Dea was probably enough to make you wish that fans were still banned from TD Garden.
But led by a game-tying goal from Nick Ritchie, and a go-ahead goal from Craig Smith with 3:50 left in regulation, the Bruins managed to end their Saturday afternoon with two points in their pocket by way of a 3-2 victory over the Sabres.
Turning to Daniel Vladar for the first game of a back-to-back, and the 6-foot-6 netminder’s second career start, the Bruins found themselves chasing this game just 2:01 into the first period after Vladar gift-wrapped a goal for Sam Reinhart.
Sam Reinhart opened the scoring for the @BuffaloSabres with his 10th road goal of the season and is tied with Montreal’s Tyler Toffoli and Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen (both w/ 10) for the most among all players. #NHLStats: https://t.co/sMOgwVLkKh pic.twitter.com/ebT87Ymx7H— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) March 27, 2021
That score held through the opening frame, too, and until Matt Grzelcyk walked the blue line on a delayed penalty and ripped a shot through the Sabres’ Linus Ullmark for his second goal of the year, scored at the 11:41 mark of the period.
Matt Grzelcyk ties things up.— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 27, 2021
He's got 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) in 11 games since returning to the lineup. pic.twitter.com/hbircdfUKm
Buffalo didn’t need long to jump back out front, as a juicy rebound put the puck on a platter for Kyle Okposo, and through a diving Chris Wagner, to put the Sabres back on top just 2:31 after Grzelcyk’s game-tying wrister.
Needing the Sabres to simply Sabres like only they can, Charlie McAvoy sparked the Boston comeback in the third period with a two-lap twirl around Ullmark’s net before his heave on net by batted in by Ritchie on the rebound.
Then came an all-out gritty goal from Smith at the 16:10 mark of the period.
Quite the celly from Craig Smith: pic.twitter.com/jZLAFjIgKb— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) March 27, 2021
With their lead on their side for the first time all afternoon, the Bruins held down the fort for the remainder of regulation, and Vladar finished with a 25-of-27 line in net for his second victory in as many NHL starts.
Jeremy Lauzon, who was originally expected to miss Saturday’s game as he continued to work his way back from a fractured hand, was a surprise addition to the Boston lineup and finished with three blocks and a shot in 18:32 of action. Jarred Tinordi sat as the B’s healthy scratch to make room for Lauzon on the backend.
Bruins winger Zach Senyshyn, asked to step in for the injured Karson Kuhlman, also made his return to action after missing five games with an upper-body ailment. Senyshyn had one shot on goal and a drew a penalty in 11:50.
Jake DeBrusk and Sean Kuraly remained out of action due to COVID protocols, while leading scorer Brad Marchand was added to the list about 90 minutes before the start of today’s contest.
The Sabres, meanwhile, dropped their 17th straight contest.
The Bruins will continue their homestand with a 5:30 p.m. puck drop against the Devils on Sunday.