BOSTON - Tuukka Rask did not put much thought into his historic points streak. So when the 21-game stretch came to an end on Saturday night with a 4-2 loss to Buffalo, his reaction was fairly straightforward - it's time to start a new one.
"I think it was pretty obvious that wasn't our best game. Not the way we wanted to play but those games happen," said Rask, who suffered his first regulation loss since Nov. 26 and had his personal eight-game winning streak snapped.
Rask was still, perhaps, the Bruins' best player against the Sabres, making 24 saves to keep Boston in the game for much of the night. But it was not enough as the B's fell in regulation for just the second time in their last 24 games. The defeat also snapped a four-game winning streak.
"I think the statement plays were by Tuukka. He made the saves to sort of keep it going, but we just didn't respond for him," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy.
Video: BOS Recap: Spooner, Backes score in 4-2 loss
Rask's points streak stands as the fourth-longest in team history, trailing only Gerry Cheevers' NHL-record 32-game stretch in 1971-72; Pete Peeters' 31-game streak in 1982-83; and Frank Brimsek's 23-game span in 1940-41.
The netminder's streak was no match for Boston's roughest defensive night in recent memory. The Bruins coughed up 18 giveaways to Buffalo's six and surrendered numerous breakaways and odd-man rushes, leading to two of the Sabres three second-period goals.
"You can accept not executing certain nights, you can accept the puck not going in, but the giving them the free chances the other way, that's just not who we are," said Cassidy. "The odd-man rushes, eventually they got us. I think Tuukka made some good saves on them, too. Could have been a lot worse."
Video: BUF@BOS: Rask snags Pouliot's point-blank one-timer
Following a scoreless first period, the Sabres struck first when they capitalized on a David Pastrnak turnover just inside the Buffalo blue line. Sam Reinhart snatched the puck away and sprung Evander Kane, who ripped a shot over Rask's glove on a breakaway to put Buffalo up, 1-0, 7:42 into the middle frame.
"I think they were right on top of us," said Patrice Bergeron. "They were doing a good job of denying us time and space and we got stubborn at the [blue] line, especially, and they took it to us with odd-man rushes. We should have played a simple game and went back to just going in there and establishing some good forecheck and some O-zone time and we didn't do that."
Buffalo doubled its lead five minutes later when Scott Wilson batted home a loose puck that had deflected off of Adam McQuaid out front. Just under two minutes after Wilson's tally, Ryan Spooner brought the Bruins within a goal, when he charged down the slot and tapped home a Jake DeBrusk feed.
Video: BUF@BOS: Spooner taps in DeBrusk's terrific pass
But the Sabres once again took advantage of the Bruins' sloppiness with the puck and regained a two-goal lead with only 1:11 to play in the second. After a puck hopped over the stick of McQuaid along the wall in Buffalo's end, Wilson set off on a two-on-one with former Bruin Benoit Pouliot, who finished it off by launching a screaming one-timer by Rask.
"As a goalie you prepare for the worst and you're ready for everything," Rask said of the odd-man rushes. "I can't even remember how long we've been playing solid in our neutral zone and not too many odd-man rushes, but today obviously it was a different kind of game. Those games happen and I've just got to be ready for everything."
Boston also struggled to create much offensively, particularly when it came to sustaining offensive zone pressure and following up with second-chance opportunities. The Bruins also went 0-for-4 on the power play, while landing just four shots on goal with the man advantage.
"I think that there were certain plays that maybe were too pretty," said DeBrusk. "I think that we were fighting the puck a bit as well. There was kind of a mix of that, and there were some unfortunate turnovers, and Buffalo capitalized."
Video: BUF@BOS: Rask stops Pominville's quick chance
The Bruins showed a bit of late life, for a moment giving the TD Garden faithful a ray of hope when David Backes tipped home a Patrice Bergeron shot to cut Buffalo's lead to 3-2 with 59 seconds to play and Rask on the bench. But any thoughts of a miracle comeback were dashed some 30 seconds later when Rasmus Ristolainen buried an empty-netter.
"I think we were flat and just like the Anaheim game [earlier this month], when you do that you just don't deserve it, plain and simple," said Bergeron. "We didn't respect the game plan and I really thought it was at the blue lines on both sides. A lot of mental mistakes."
Fortunately for the Black & Gold, they won't have to wait long for a chance at bouncing back as they visit New Jersey on Sunday night. They'll be looking to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time since Dec. 14-16. Boston has not lost two straight in regulation since Nov. 11-16.
"I think the biggest thing we have to worry about is how we play and how we want to play," said Rask. "Losses happen and we have come to recognize that when we play the way we want to and get the pace up, we win more games than we lose. I think that's got to be our focus. Make sure we show up and have a really good effort [on Sunday night]."
Video: BUF@BOS: Bruins drop puck for Chinese Cultural Night