The Buffalo Sabres spent much of the weekend looking like they were playing short-handed. Their two opponents dominated long stretches at even strength, making the Sabres chase them around and waste their rapidly diminishing energy.
The Sabres coupled that Sunday night by actually being short-handed too much. Although the penalty-killers joined Ryan Miller in carrying the team into a late 1-1 tie with Boston, they finally faltered. When they did, Buffalo’s winning feeling was gone.
The Bruins’ power play broke through with 12:08 left, ending the deadlock and carrying the visitors to a 3-1 victory in First Niagara Center. The Sabres, who had won two straight, fell to 3-7-1 in the last 11 games.
“We’ve had a pretty tough stretch, and we spent too much time killing penalties,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “We wasted energy. I thought a couple penalties were the undisciplined type that we’ve got to stay away from when you’re playing back-to-back games.”
The Sabres killed four penalties in the second period, including a five-on-three. The Bruins entered the game with the league’s worst power play, and the Sabres’ 18th-ranked penalty killers kept it that way for much of the night. But their final opportunity to make a difference didn’t go as well.
Chris Bourque’s shot from the point bounced off the back boards and caromed into the faceoff circle to Patrice Bergeron. He ripped a shot into the top corner for Boston’s fourth power-play goal of the season.
“It was tough because it was at that crucial point in the game,” said Sabres defenseman Robyn Regehr, who returned after missing seven games with an ankle injury. “We had the opportunity to try and get it done there in the third, and unfortunately as a penalty-killing unit we couldn’t do it.”
The goal put Milan Lucic in position for an empty-net tally with 48.6 seconds left.
“I don’t think all power-play goals are beautiful goals,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “We’ve had some great chances we haven’t buried, so in the end it’s nice to get that break. We needed that goal, and it came at the right time.”
A fortuitous bounce was about the only way Boston could beat Miller. The goaltender made 36 saves after finishing with 41 during Saturday’s 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders.
His teammates tested Boston backup Anton Khudobin 26 times, with half of those coming in the opening period.
“We started to show our fatigue around the midpoint,” said Miller, whose team will play its 14th game in 24 days Tuesday in Ottawa against the Senators.
The teams were busy in the first period. Miller faced 16 shots while Khudobin saw 13, but neither allowed one to find the net.
The Sabres opened the second period short-handed, and they spent much of it that way.
“We got a little bit undisciplined and had to kill a bunch of penalties,” Regehr said.
“That type of stuff hurts your momentum a little bit, and it did it to us.”
The Bruins continued to tilt the ice and finally solved Miller. Andrew Ference collected a turnover by Tyler Ennis and fed Brad Marchand in the slot. His shot through traffic went just inside the far post with 7:10 gone in the second, giving Boston a 1-0 lead on its 23rd shot through 27 minutes.
Ennis made up for the mistake with his fifth goal of the season before the period ended.
Drew Stafford intercepted Dougie Hamilton’s clearing attempt along the boards and spotted Ennis alone in the slot. The center deked right to get Khudobin down, then went around the left side to put the puck home and tie the game with 1:59 to go.
Ennis has found the net in three of the last four games. But no one else joined him, ruining another solid outing for their goaltender.
“Millsie played incredible,” said Sabres right wing Patrick Kaleta, who got the crowd of 18,869 riled up early by throwing 16 haymakers in a spirited fight with Gregory Campbell. “We’ve got to tighten up and get our things straight here.”