BOSTON - The Boston Bruins thought they lost a game they should've won on the road against the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. The only thing they could do Saturday night was duplicate the effort and hope the second half of the home-and-home series went their way.
Reilly Smith scored twice and David Krejci had a goal and an assist to lead the Bruins to a 4-1 victory. Boston improved to 12-0-2 in its past 14 games at TD Garden and avenged a 4-2 loss in Buffalo 48 hours earlier.
The Bruins outshot the Sabres 15-5 in the third period Thursday, but it was Buffalo that broke a 2-2 tie with two goals for the victory.
"I think it was good, but not good enough," Krejci said of the Bruins' play on Thursday. "You need effort and you also have to capitalize on your scoring chances. So we didn't have the complete game. But I felt like we had an OK game, [and] in this game, OK is not good enough."
The Bruins (24-10-2) have won two of three against the Sabres (9-24-3). Tuukka Rask made 34 saves for the Bruins and Jhonas Enroth stopped 35 shots for the Sabres, who were looking for their first three-game winning streak of the season.
"I just think we made some really bad decisions at some wrong times," Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan said. "I thought we started off OK for a road game - we kept it pretty quiet. But then we took a bad penalty, and again it cost us. We had guys rushing up on the flight trying to make it a 4-on-4, but just bad decisions all around."
After the Sabres tied the score late in the first period, the Bruins wasted little time regaining the lead in the second. Jarome Iginla skated end-to-end after a rebound of a Buffalo shot and found Krejci as the late man on a 3-on-2. Krejci roofed a wrist shot from just below the right hash mark at 1:47 to put Boston ahead to stay. Milan Lucic's drive to the net helped get Krejci open for the shot.
Buffalo had several chances to pull even the rest of the period, but came up short. The Bruins killed off 1:49 of a 5-on-3 plus an entire second minor penalty after Gregory Campbell took a double minor for high-sticking with Patrice Bergeron already in the box for cross-checking.
The Bruins had to use Krejci at center for much of the kill, and even had defenseman Torey Krug playing up top for a bit with two of Boston's best penalty-killers in the box and center Chris Kelly still out of the lineup with a broken leg.
"David's a pretty smart player also. So we put him up front," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "And we had [Ryan Spooner] ready for that, but also Spooner and Krug are two guys that are smart and quick up top, it's what we looked on that penalty kill when those two guys were in the penalty box and they did a good job. You know you've got ad lib once in a while and be creative and that's what we tried to do."
Boston gained momentum from the lengthy kill.
"It was huge," Lucic said. "Especially with [Bergeron] and [Campbell] in the penalty box. Those are the two guys that are usually killing 5-on-3, and seeing other guys come in and step up and kill that off was huge and brought that momentum back on our side and kind of lifted us to victory after that."
Krejci assisted on Lucic's goal at 5:18 of the third that gave the Bruins a 3-1 lead. Zdeno Chara made a slap pass to Krejci in the left circle, and Krejci fed Lucic in the slot for a high wrist shot that beat Enroth.
Smith hit the empty net with 21.4 seconds remaining.
Unlike Thursday night, the Bruins scored first in the rematch of the two Atlantic Division foes. With Linus Omark off for hooking, the Bruins took advantage of a power play to take a 1-0 lead when Smith scored on a one-timer from the bottom of the left circle at 9:39 after a pass across the slot by Carl Soderberg.
The Sabres had killed their prior 14 shorthanded situations dating back to Dec. 5. But Smith's power-play goal was the start of a tough night for Buffalo's special teams.
"It's unfortunate. If you want to pinpoint one thing that we missed out on tonight, that's the special teams battle," Buffalo forward Drew Stafford said. "But bottom line is that's something that we know we can practice now and come whenever we regroup and it's back to the drawing board again. We expected [the Bruins] to respond compared to last game so unfortunately the better team won tonight."
The Sabres got even when Zemgus Girgensons scored at 18:54. After Rask stopped Matt Moulson's backhander from in front, Girgensons followed up with a backhand shot of his own that went off Rask's back and into the net.
Boston completes its pre-Christmas schedule with a visit to the Nashville Predators on Monday, the same night the Sabres host the Phoenix Coyotes. The Sabres now 0-7-1 in their past eight road games.
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