BOSTON – The sight of Buffalo star goaltender Ryan Miller sitting on the bench rather than manning his team's crease didn't change the Boston Bruins' approach to Thursday night's game.
When you haven't won two in a row in nearly two months, you can't take anything for granted.
Sabres backup goaltender Jhonas Enroth was up to the task most of the night, but Johnny Boychuk broke a tie with 7:04 left in the third period and sent the Bruins on their way to a 3-1 win at the TD Garden in their 11th attempt to string together back-to-back victories.
Center David Krejci added the Bruins' insurance goal 2:58 later.
"You know it's been a long time; we finally got it," Krejci said. "It feels good, I think we deserve it – we've played well in the last few games. Even in some of our losses, we played well. But, even if you got to play the same way, then the wins are going to come. We got two in a row so it feels pretty good."
The Bruins' last winning streak came Jan. 10 and 12. Since then they've lost several players – Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley, Tuukka Rask – while attempting to get on a roll. All the while they've maintained their hold on first place in the Northeast Division and accumulated standings points.
However, it was still a relief for them to prove they could win two straight coming off a victory in Toronto on Tuesday.
"It seems to be for a lot of people, and I think it's the same for us," coach Claude Julien said. "We've been obviously battling with our consistency, and even though this is our first back-to-back wins in a long time, I think the fact I was encouraged by our play in New York [last Sunday in a loss] and it's just kept coming along in the next game. Obviously winning [Tuesday], and then again tonight, [it was] a pretty decent effort. I think that's what we're looking for now as more a consistent effort and hopefully they turn into wins. When you've got the amount of injuries you have, you take every win for what they are and tonight was a good win for us."
Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff had started Miller in 10 straight games -- and including a relief appearance in Enroth's last start on Feb. 6, Miller had appeared in 21 consecutive contests. Ruff had said prior to Wednesday night's overtime win over Carolina that sooner or later his Olympian would get some rest. Despite his team trailing eighth-place Winnipeg by two points at the start of the night, the Buffalo coach picked the Boston game to sit Miller. Enroth finished with 25 saves, including 13 during a solid first period by the Bruins.
The Sabres went to the first intermission up 1-0 because Jason Pominville ripped a shot past Tim Thomas with 3:21 remaining before the break. Enroth continued to keep Boston off the board until late in the second period, when Gregory Campbell turned a Sabres giveaway into a goal. Campbell tipped in a Shawn Thornton one-timer off a loose puck after Christian Ehrhoff and Cody Hodgson failed to cleanly connect on a breakout pass.
Another giveaway led to Boston's go-ahead goal. After Brad Marchand pressured Buffalo on the forecheck, Jordan Caron drove the net and tried to feed a pass to the front. The puck deflected to the top of the right circle for a Boychuk blast that beat Enroth high to the short side.
"He gave us a good game," Ruff said of Enroth. "He couldn't see the second one and the first one was tipped, so I thought Jhonas was solid for us. He gave us a real sound first period and we came out with a lead. I thought we got our legs in the second but we weren't able to push through."
For Enroth, the appearance was only his second in the last 22 games. He is still looking for his first victory since Nov. 26.
"The first period went well I think. I was a little bit tired after the first, actually, so I felt a little bit rusty at first," Enroth said. "I could feel that I hadn't been playing a lot, so it's something I need to work on I guess."
Krejci sealed the victory with a score on the back end of a 2-on-1 with Milan Lucic at 15:54 of the third.
Thomas, making his third straight start since Rask's injury, earned the win with 19 saves on 20 shots.
"I think we had control of the puck and had it in their end a lot," Thomas said. "Buffalo looked like a very tired team so they didn't put too much pressure on us."
The third period also featured a couple big hits that slowed down two of the better snipers in the game. Buffalo's Tyler Myers finished a high check on Marchand that sent the Boston winger to the bench looking a little groggy. Marchand didn't play the final six minutes of the game, but Julien said he was available.
Boychuk had green-lighted Thomas Vanek at the Buffalo blue line earlier, and Vanek didn't return. Ruff said that Vanek suffered an upper-body injury, but it wasn't a head injury.
1 - 0 BUF
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 BOS