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Marchand, B's Put Character on Display in 3-2 OT Win Over Sabres

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins

BUFFALO — As the Bruins left the ice and entered the dressing room after the second period of Thursday’s game, they knew exactly what was at stake.

They were down 2-1 to the Sabres, and coming off a third-period collapse on Tuesday night against Minnesota, they were desperate for two points any way they could get them — just to get back on track, just to get the confidence rolling again.

So they stepped up, and they did what they had to do.

“The leaders stepped up, and I think everyone knew what was at hand,” said defenseman David Warsofsky. “We wanted to come here and get two points, and we needed to win a period to do that. So we did it, and it’s a good feeling.”

Boston mounted a third-period comeback at the First Niagara Center on Thursday night, tying the game on a Brad Marchand score with 5:30 left and eventually netting the game-winner 1 minute and 20 seconds into the extra frame, which also came off the stick of Marchand.

“This is a game that we really wanted to win,” Marchand said. “You don’t want to go down two games below .500, and especially with the way we finished last game, we wanted to make sure we had a big effort tonight, and we came out with a win.”

Prior to Thursday’s game, there was plenty of talk from the Bruins about building some much-needed consistency, about regaining the confidence that they might have lost given the way their last game ended. Thursday’s character win did plenty to rectify both of those issues.

“I think it’s huge,” Warsofsky said. “I think, I mean, a win like that is almost more of a character win than a 5-0 blowout. So it’s good to get back on track and get that one under our belt, but I think we want to keep on rolling here and put a streak together.”

The Bruins got off to a slow start on Thursday, allowing the Sabres to get on the board first courtesy of a Drew Stafford power play strike from the left circle about five minutes into the second period that eluded Niklas Svedberg. The goal marked Buffalo’s first power play goal of the season.

Boston was quick to rebound, however, as defenseman Adam McQuaid tallied his first goal of the 2014-15 campaign. After forcing a turnover in the neutral zone, Carl Soderberg found a streaking McQuaid, who beat Jhonas Enroth glove-side with a wristshot.

But the Sabres weren’t done fighting. Though they registered just three shots on goal in the second frame, two of them got through, and the second came as a Bruins power play expired. Torey Mitchell, who had been whistled for cross-checking, came streaking out of the box and fed the puck to Tyler Ennis, who gave Buffalo the 2-1 lead with less than four minutes remaining in the second period.

Then, it was gut-check time for the Bruins.

“Just in the locker room between periods, I think guys really wanted to get going,” Warsofsky said. “We knew this was an important game, and I think [the third] was one of the most important periods of the season so far, just to get back on track, and I think guys responded well.”

The B’s came out firing, hitting the Sabres with unrelenting pressure in the offensive zone and outshooting them 16-4 in the frame. Eventually, they figured, one of those shots had to go in — and it did.

Marchand registered the game-tying goal with 5 1/2 minutes left in regulation. After a faceoff win by Soderberg, Marchand took a feed from Dennis Seidenberg and streaked through the slot before dishing to Eriksson. Then, he got to the front of the net to screen Eriksson’s shot from the right circle, and it deflected off his arm to beat Enroth.

Eriksson notched the 400th point of his NHL career on the assist.

“I don’t trust Loui’s shooting, so I just put my hand up,” Marchand joked. “I saw it kind of coming up high, and it hit my arm and went in.”

When a team is mired in a difficult stretch, one of those fortunate bounces can be all it takes to turn things around, and that was the case on Thursday night.

“Sometimes that’s all you need, is a lucky bounce like that, and when things are going wrong, you kind of hope for things like that to happen,” Marchand said. “I got a fortunate bounce tonight, and hopefully I can feed off that.”

Marchand kept right on pushing in the extra frame. After starting the game on the third line with Soderberg and Eriksson, he was reunited with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Reilly Smith for the overtime period, and the trio rediscovered their chemistry on the game-winner. From behind the net, Smith found Marchand in the slot, and that was it. Game over.

Thursday’s outing was a particularly remarkable one for Marchand, given that he was a game-time decision in light of a “tweak” suffered during Wednesday’s practice.

“He just showed his true colors, and what he can do if he decides to play the way he can,” said Head Coach Claude Julien. “He’s got good speed, and he can be pretty slippery, but he’s been playing a lot on the outside, with the puck and without it, and it doesn’t bode well for him. So it’s nice to see him get rewarded with the things he needs to do. Hopefully that encourages him to do a little bit more.”

The B’s faced plenty of unfamiliarity heading into Thursday’s game. They were without three defensive stalwarts in Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and, for the first time this season, Torey Krug, who suffered a broken finger on his final shift of Tuesday’s game. That meant it was time for Warsofsky and fellow blueliner Joe Morrow — making his NHL debut — to slot in, joining fellow rookie Zach Trotman on the back end.

“I thought he played well — both Morrow, Warsofsky, Trotman,” Julien said. “They’ve come in and done a good job, and I said about our game tonight [that] we had to improve on our breakouts, and a lot of that starts on our back end. I thought our D’s did a pretty good job on our breakouts here tonight, and that includes those young guys that came in.”

There were also some unfamiliar lines to start the game, with Simon Gagne slotting in on Bergeron’s right side and Smith playing on the fourth line. In the end, though, the B’s did precisely what they had to do to right the ship. They battled in the third period until they got what they wanted, and they didn’t give up. They rediscovered their chemistry and their identity, and they showed the kind of character they’re accustomed to showing when the pressure mounts.

“It doesn’t matter how you get a win on the road — you get the two points, and we’re going to be happy with that,” Marchand said. “Hopefully we can continue to build tomorrow, and the day after that.”

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