Thomas Vanek notched his 8th hat trick Thursday night as the Sabres crushed the Bruins 7-4. On top of that, Vanek added a couple assists to his point total, leading him to his 2nd career 5-point game.
Overall in the game, Buffalo looked sloppy. Leopold and Myers were skating in circles and screened Miller on more than one Boston goal. Passes weren’t hitting their marks and the turnovers were ugly and often. It seemed like everything the Sabres did, Boston had an answer for. But then Vanek decided to do it Vanek-style. He spent most of the night parked in front of the net, taking a beating from Boston’s defensemen. It all paid off, as it usually does for him. He scored two goals from his favorite spot and one more from outside. He was also able to set up Tyler Ennis with a beautiful sweeping pass while being knocked to the ice. Ennis rewarded him by burying it in the back of the net. Possibly his most impressive play, however, game with under 2 minutes to go in the game. Vanek stripped a winger in the neutral zone, tapped the puck against the boards to beat a defenseman and quickly made his way to Tuukka Rask. As Vanek approached the net, he stopped and waited, sliding the puck back and forth in front of the goalie, almost taunting him. Rask was backed up in the net and dove at the puck. Vanek quickly juked to the left and backhanded the puck top shelf. It was something out of a street hockey game. It just looked like just a complete mismatch of talent.
On the other side of the ice, you’d think a goalie who gave up 4 goals would lose, but that wasn’t the case. Ryan Miller was stunning in net…for the most part. It was really a game of numbers. The more shots, the more chances you have to save them and Miller was impressive at that. He made 38 saves and some of them were goal-robbers. He looked frustrated in the first two periods because his defensemen couldn’t clear the crease and kept losing the puck right in front of him. At one point in the second, Brad Marchand scored two of a Bruins three goal run in under 6 minutes. Miller settled down in the third and made some brilliant saves, allowing his team to get the lead back and push for the win.
John Scott is really pulling his weight for the Sabres early on in this season. Just a couple minutes into the game Scott and Shawn Thorton (Boston’s “tough guy”) lined up against each other during a faceoff. When the puck dropped, so did the gloves and Scott pummeled Thorton, delivering multiple blows to the head. Thorton didn’t land a single punch and didn’t return to the game after serving his penalty. Scott showed some concern for his sparring partner in the post game, asking trainers how he was doing. Thorton, who rarely loses a fight, is expected to be checked out at some point Friday.
Early in the third period, the Sabres found themselves down 4-3 and things weren’t looking good. Then the team finally showed they could finish a game. It started with Sulzer getting his first of the season on a nice little wrist shot and then the wheel fell off Boston’s gravy train. Hodgson lit up Rask on a blazing slap shot, followed by Vanek’s street hockey style breakaway goal. Then Pominville added his 5th of the season on an empty netter. Up by 3 with 13 seconds remaining, Lindy Ruff called a time out. He had his best line on the ice against Boston’s goon squad and didn’t want anything to happen. So out came John Scott to keep the peace and the game ended quietly with most of the Boston fans already in the parking lot after watching their team lose for the first time this season.
I want to say “a win’s a win” but this was a game that shouldn’t have been won. Take away Vanek’s goals and it’s a tie. Take away a couple incredible saves and it’s a big loss. The Bruins had Lindy Ruff figured out, as usual. If it was up to him, this was a 5 game losing streak. But, the players took it into their own hands and made some big time individual efforts to seal the victory.
– Josh Paufler
The Bruins are in town for round two Sunday February 10th.