This version of Tyler Myers was a much closer facsimile to the guy who won the Calder Trophy three years ago. To the guy the Buffalo Sabres gave a $38.5 million contract to prior to last season. To the guy the Sabres hope someday could be in Norris Trophy talk as the NHL’s best defenseman.
Physical in his own end and free-wheeling in the offensive zone, Myers had his best all-around game of a rugged season in Friday’s 4-2 bounceback against the Boston Bruins.
Myers scored the tying goal at 2:03 of the third period, backhanding home a Jochen Hecht rebound, and made a great play down low to set up Cody Hodgson for a tap-in at 11:45 that gave the Sabres their two-goal cushion.
Myers entered the game with just one point, a goal in the opener Jan. 20 against Philadelphia. He also had an ugly minus-9 rating, one off the worst in the NHL. So a two-point, plus-2 night was a huge boost for him in his second outing after a two-game benching.
“There’s a lot of good things to take from it,” Myers said. “I think the most important thing is I continue, not let this be a one-game thing. A lot of it is confidence. It’s coming back.”
The 6-foot-8 Myers’ big finish to this one was a huge talking point afterward.
“When he’s skating and moving, he’s a tough man to keep track of,” said coach Lindy Ruff. “I thought his energy in the game was maybe as good as I’ve seen this year.”
“He’s got range, he’s got physical attributes not a lot of people have,” goaltender Ryan Miller said. “And I’ve been trying to be positive with him, reminding him he’s a big guy: ‘Everyone has to come through you to come to me so let’s work together.’ ”
Myers played 20 minutes, 47 seconds Tuesday at Ottawa and was largely crisp with the puck in his own end. He was at 18:40 Friday and said his time in the press box definitely helped.
“It never hurts to get up there and watch a game,” he said. “It slows things down quite a bit, allows you to really study the game and learn.”
Myers’ goal was a perfectly-timed decision to follow a 2-on-1 that Hecht and Nathan Gerbe built going into the Boston zone. Myers quickly swooped in on a rebound after Anton Khudobin stopped Hecht from point-blank range.
“In previous games, I would try to do that at the wrong time and it would get me in trouble,” Myers said. “Especially the last two games, I’m starting to make better decisions on when to jump and when not to. It’s just a matter of balancing it.
Myers’ primary thrill, however, was that his big night came in a big win.
“You look at that third period and it was one of the best periods I’ve seen from us in a long time,” he said. “It was really good to see. A huge step. I’m tired of hearing about potential though. It’s time we realize what we’re capable of and it’s time we start playing like it.”
The Sabres have likely lost defenseman Andrej Sekera for a few games due to a severe charley horse suffered when he was checked into the boards by Boston’s Shawn Thornton late in the third period. Mike Weber sat out as a healthy scratch Friday and will almost certainly return to replace Sekera.
• Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff’s two-point night was his first multi-point affair since March 7, 2012 against Carolina. He played 26:58 on Friday, his third-highest total of the season.
• Winger Steve Ott was credited with 11 hits, the first Buffalo player in double digits since Paul Gaustad had 10 against Pittsburgh in the first Winter Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Jan. 1, 2008.
• Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, formerly of East Amherst, played his 600th career NHL game for the Pens on Friday night in Winnipeg. No. 601 will come here in Sunday’s nationally televised 12:30 matinee.