BUFFALO – The usual fireworks – the goals, fights, yapping and other signs of hatred – never really materialized Friday between the Sabres and Boston Bruins.
Instead, the heated Northeast Division rivals, who had played three memorable games this season, engaged in a dull, low-chance affair inside a pretty quiet First Niagara Center.
The Sabres don’t care about style, though, only the two points a tight 2-1 shootout triumph, their third straight victory, moved them up in the standings.
In a week, the Sabres (61 points) have made up five points and roared four spots up the Eastern Conference standings to 11th, just five points behind eighth-place Florida.
At this point, will the Sabres really be sellers before Monday’s trade deadline?
“We got our eyes set on eighth,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “It’s going to take one heck of a run still. You got to give the guys credit. They’ve been locked in for a good period of time.”
Derek Roy, a goat after his intercepted clearing pass led to the tying goal, redeemed himself in the shootout, beating Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask with a nifty backhander.
“I figured if I did that move,” Roy said, “I could score.”
Ruff made sure Roy got his chance.
“I just felt in the shootout, ‘OK, I’m going to give you a chance to get it back for us,’” Ruff said. “It was great to see it go in. It was great to see him respond and get us that goal.”
It felt sweet.
“I wanted to redeem myself somehow during the game,” Roy said. “I didn’t know when it was going to be, but I had a good feeling about it.”
Benoit Pouliot then put a wrist shot over goalie Ryan Miller, securing the Sabres’ eighth win in 13 tries. David Krejci and Thomas Vanek had traded scores early.
The Sabres start a five-game road trip tonight in New York against the Rangers.
Friday’s contest almost never reached the shootout, however.
Zdeno Chara’s slap shot tied it on the power play at 3:36 when Roy couldn’t lift the puck.
“That was another tough break,” Roy said. “The puck was spinning on me. I tried to ice it. I didn’t get all of it. They picked it off and made a nice shot.”
The Sabres fought the Bruins back most of the third period, as they pumped 15 shots on Miller.
“We got on our heels a little bit in the third,” Ruff said. “Part of it had to do with penalties. But I thought we dug. We blocked some big shots. We threw our bodies in front of a couple.”
Then, with 24 seconds left in regulation, Vanek, who got benched last week for taking too many penalties, was whistled for high-sticking.
The kill was huge.
“We thought we’d key on Chara, make sure we fronted on him,” Ruff said about the hulking defender. “That’s no easy task when you tell your D, ‘Listen, you got to block that one-timer that’s going about 105.’ Those guys did a good job. We needed the extra point.”
The dull style stymied the Bruins early.
“We did a nice job of being really organized in our zone, also coming up the ice,” Miller said. “The first two periods were strictly trap. We didn’t really forecheck a lot unless they got the puck in deep.”
Roy added: “We were just kind of sitting back a little bit too much, especially third period after we had the lead. I think we got to go right at him. Obviously, those penalties didn’t help us.”
Andrej Sekera finally opened the scoring 14:45 into the second period, the defenseman’s first goal since Dec. 16, a 22-game-stretch. Sekera pinched into the slot, grabbed Tyler Ennis’ pass from below the goal line and his wrist shot beat Rask high.
Few power plays didn’t help the entertainment value. The Sabres had zero, missing a chance to jumpstart their awful power play. The Bruins enjoyed four.
To no one’s surprise, the capacity crowd of 18,690 fans loudly booed Bruins winger Brad Marchand, who called Buffalo “the worst place in the NHL” on Thursday, each time he touched the puck.