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First-Period Outburst Helps Push Bruins Past Sabres

Boston scored four goals in span of 5:40 to power past Buffalo

by Eric Russo @erusso22 /

BUFFALO - Jeremy Swayman woke up on Wednesday morning expecting to have the best seat in the house for the Bruins' Thanksgiving Eve tilt against the Buffalo Sabres. That seat was supposed to be the one at the end of Boston's bench where he'd watch his partner, Linus Ullmark, man the pipes at KeyBank Center.

But instead, Swayman got an unexpected birthday surprise.

With Ullmark tweaking something during morning skate, coach Bruce Cassidy was forced to turn to Swayman, who despite the sudden twist felt more than prepared to take over the crease.

"I try to keep my preparation the same every game, playing or not," said Swayman, who turned 23 on Wednesday. "It wasn't too much of a transition for me when I did get that call. Goalie Bob told me what the deal was. I was happy to get the start and all I was focused on was getting the win tonight."

Swayman did just that as he stopped 24 shots to help lift the Bruins to a 5-1 victory over the Sabres. And as it turns out, his vantage point - while a few dozen feet away from where he expected it to be - was a pretty good one.

"I had the best seat in the house all night," said Swayman, who calmly turned away a penalty shot attempt from John Hayden in the second period. "Fun to watch. It was a good camaraderie game. The guys were all super happy in the locker room, and I'm sure on the bench. It was a fun game to be a part of."

Video: Swayman chats with the media after 5-1 W over BUF

The backstop admitted he would have liked a do-over on the game's opening goal, a Kyle Okposo wrister that sailed through a Patrice Bergeron screen and past Swayman to put Buffalo up, 1-0, just after the midway point of the first period. But Boston responded with a vengeance, striking for four goals - one each from Bergeron, Charlie Coyle, David Pastrnak, and Mike Reilly - over the course of a dominating 5-minute, 40-second span of the opening frame that chased Buffalo goalie Aaron Dell from the game.

"We really pushed through after that [first goal against]," said Cassidy. "We were trying to play the right way, get up the ice in a hurry, in and out of our end, support the puck, play off the shot. That's actually what happened on that [Buffalo goal]. We did a good job getting out of our end. D got caught a little bit. I thought Bergy played the 1-on-1 pretty good. Was just a good shot by Okposo.

"But after that we really controlled the play and got some breaks around the front of the net. I think you earn your breaks too by putting the pucks to the net and outworking people in the dirty area. We were able to find the back of the net."

On the Injury Front 

Charlie McAvoy was hit hard into the boards from behind by Buffalo's Zemgus Girgensons in the final minutes of the third period and was forced to leave the game with help from the Bruins' training staff. Girgensons was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct, sending Boston to the power play, during which Taylor Hall put an exclamation point on the victory with his fifth goal of the season.

After the game, Cassidy said that McAvoy "was up moving around" and needed "some stitches" above his eye. But he was hopeful that the blue liner would be fine to play on Friday afternoon against the New York Rangers.

"He's good. I don't expect they'll be much going on," said Cassidy. "He'll have a gash over his eye…right now, [a head injury is] not the case, but who knows? Let's hope he wakes up healthy and feeling good. Have some turkey [Thursday] and ready to go Friday."

Ullmark, meanwhile, is not expected to miss extended time. But with no practice on Thursday and an afternoon tilt slated for Friday, Cassidy will be turning to Swayman once again against the Blue Shirts.

"It didn't seem like a big thing. He was able to back up," said Cassidy. "Weren't gonna bring in a guy last minute anyway unless we were really stuck. I don't think it's anything major. Hopefully a day off the ice [Thursday] and he'll be good to go his next start [on Sunday against Vancouver]."

Video: Cassidy shares his thoughts after B's take down BUF

Taking His Shot

Charlie Coyle knows he has to shoot more. He's been hearing it since he was a kid.

But with two absolute rockets in the last four games, he seems to be shifting his approach. Against the Sabres, the 29-year-old rifled home a wicked wrister for what proved to be the deciding tally with 5:40 remaining in the first period.

"It's just about using [my shot] more, to be honest. I've had that said to me my whole life…just got to keep using it, get myself in position to get it off, receive the puck," said Coyle, who now has six goals in 16 games, matching his total from all of last season.

"When you can be a dual threat, it's that much more advantageous and it's gonna pay off more. When you shoot the puck a little more it opens things up for next time, being that threat to shoot and score, then we'll know where my passes are and those lanes will open up automatically."

Coyle has five points (three goals, two assists) in his last four games and 11 in 16 games for the season, production that Cassidy believes has flown a bit under the radar.

"I think Charlie's played pretty well, to be honest with you," said Cassidy. "But his numbers are good, he's shooting the puck. He helps on the kill, second power play now pretty consistently. He's scored a couple goals, the Montreal goal, got a lucky one, but also scored another one tonight where he gets it over the glove in tight. As a righty, he's got that shot.

"He's starting to have the confidence to shoot which is good. That's what we've kind of asked out of him. Make the plays when they're there but don't be afraid to be the finisher either.

"He's attacking more too now, taking it to the net…before he might've deferred that, looked for someone else. Now he's taking some ownership of the goal scoring part. I liked Charlie's game."

Video: Coyle nets one as B's skate past BUF 5-1

Coyle is also still working his way back from offseason knee surgery to repair an ailment that clearly hampered him a year ago when he notched just six goals and 16 points in 51 games.

"I'm still trying to get back to normalcy and getting stronger," said Coyle. "Before the season I didn't do a lot of skating, so the strength is still in progress. I know there's definitely more. That will come as the season goes, more skating, take care of myself, do the proper rehab that I'm still doing, and that stuff will definitely help me as we go on here.

"You try to play the right way no matter what. Sometimes you get lucky bounces off the head [like against Montreal], off your foot, whatever. Those all count. But it's just trying to play the right way. Most of the time when you do that, you get those lucky bounces and things work out."

Making His Mark

Nick Foligno, back in his old hometown, finished the game a goal away from a Gordie Howe hat trick. The 34-year-old - who spent the first four years of his life in Buffalo while his father, Mike, played for the Sabres - picked up his first multi-point game in the Spoked-B with two assists to go along with five hits and a fight against former Bruins blue liner Colin Miller in 14:13 of ice time.

"That's his game tonight," said Cassidy. "He's banging early on, forecheck, gets behind them, knows what his role is. Nick's missed some time so he's got to get his pace up, his game pace, how to play and have a good shift the way he plays the game, in terms of managing the puck, getting to the net, being physical.

"I don't know how the fight started, probably him just being ornery and on a guy, going to the net against a right D all night, finishing him. That's what we need out of him. Probably more of that lunch bucket type of effort. Tonight was good he got rewarded."

Coyle was the beneficiary of Foligno's efforts all night and, particularly, on his first-period snipe. Foligno charged in hard on the forecheck in pursuit of Derek Forbort's hard rim dump-in, freeing the puck up for Coyle who finished it off with his rocket from the circle.

"He just does kind of a little bit of everything out there," said Coyle. "Those guys are so valuable on your team. I think I've said it before, playing against him was always tough. Just know he's gonna be in your face, forecheck hard. You saw it tonight, created so many opportunities for his linemates and beyond because of his forecheck.

"We get a goal off of it. He just brings the full package, leadership wise, in the locker room, on the ice, he can score, he's got skill, he's got grit. Those guys are huge to have. We're lucky to have him, pretty lucky to play with a guy like that."

Video: BOS@BUF: Coyle rips a shot into the corner of the net

Finding His Game

With three assists in his last four games, Jakub Zboril appears to be settling into a regular role on Boston's back end. The blue liner picked up another helper against the Sabres after a strong rush through the neutral zone eventually led to him blasting a shot from the point that created a rebound for partner Mike Reilly, who deposited it into an empty net.

Cassidy sees a player who is displaying a newfound confidence since entering the Bruins' lineup on Nov. 13.

"I think he's understanding what it takes to play in this league," said Cassidy. "I think a lot of guys it takes a while. We went through it with Grizz for a while there. He'd go back down and then come up. He finally found what he'd be good at it which is transition, have some confidence to make a play when there's ice available to make it, be hard when you need to. I think you're seeing with Zboril playing a harder brand of hockey too. That was a big hit on Okposo. He's a big man…there was one right in front of our bench.

"He's willing to put his body in harm's way when the opportunity is there. He's a 200-pound man. We're seeing a little more of that which we need out of the group as a whole. I just think he's playing to his strengths, handling the puck, making good plays, moving his feet, shooting a little bit more, all stuff we've asked him to do.

"Sometimes it just takes a while for the player to get confident and players don't feel like the staff or teammates trust him. Now I think he's feeling that. Usually your play dictates that. I don't know a coach in the world that doesn't like a guy that's playing well…hopefully he's able to stay consistent. That's the next challenge."

Video: BOS@BUF: Reilly scores in 1st period

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