The Buffalo Sabres ended their longest losing streak of the season in a big way their last time out. Losing big is becoming all too common for the Boston Bruins.
Buffalo tries to continue its mastery of slumping Boston on Thursday when the Northeast Division rivals complete a home-and-home series at TD Banknorth Garden.
The Sabres (34-14-4) scored four second-period goals Tuesday and coasted to a 7-1 home victory over the Bruins (22-23-4), snapping their skid at three.
Red-hot Daniel Briere recorded his second career hat trick and Martin Biron stopped 25 shots for Buffalo, which squandered third-period leads in consecutive losses to Columbus and the New York Islanders over the weekend.
"We were struggling with the one-goal leads, so tonight we made sure we didn't stop," Briere said. "We just kept scoring goals."
Briere has five goals and six assists during a six-game point streak, excluding the five points he had in the All-Star Game that earned him MVP honors.
"I shouldn't say it was one of those nights," Briere said. "It's been one of those last 10 days for me. It's been crazy. It's been a lot of fun lately."
Even with Tuesday's victory, Buffalo finished 6-7-1 in January, its worst month since December 2003. Still, the Sabres lead the Eastern Conference with 72 points and are only three behind Nashville for most in the NHL.
In an effort to give No. 1 goaltender Ryan Miller some rest, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff started Biron on Tuesday. Miller was coming off back-to-back losses in which Buffalo led after two periods, and he allowed two soft third-period goals Saturday in a 5-3 loss to the Islanders.
"My game's been good, but it hasn't been where I wanted it to be," said Miller, who is just 3-5-1 with a 3.18 goals-against average in his last nine contests. "Some of my mental errors have made a bigger difference than usually they might."
Biron, who had lost his last two starts, could get the call again Thursday. He has won four straight starts against the Bruins, allowing seven goals in that span.
Tuesday's win was the Sabres' fourth in five meetings against the Bruins this season, and improved their record to 11-1-1 in the last 13 matchups. Their only loss this season came in a shootout at Boston on Jan. 15.
Four straight losses is damaging enough to a team trying to make up ground in the playoff race, but the Bruins have been outscored 19-3 during their longest skid of the season.
A 4-10-2 record since Dec. 26 has dropped Boston into 13th place in the East, eight points behind the final playoff berth.
"We have to stay together and get out of this together," center Marc Savard said. "We have to stay together and be there for each other."
Tuesday's loss was the Bruins' seventh in a row on the road. They have been a much better home team despite being outscored 9-1 in two straight losses there.
Backup Hannu Toivonen allowed six goals on 23 shots Tuesday before he was relieved by Tim Thomas at the start of the third period. Toivonen made the start because Thomas has lost his last three games and was pulled in the second period of a 6-1 defeat to the New York Rangers on Monday.
Boston's 3.68 GAA is the league's worst.