The Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres were both riding three-game winning streaks going into their most recent contests, and both held leads at least halfway through those games.
The Northwest Division rivals, however, will both be looking to rebound from a loss when they face off in Boston on Tuesday in the first of two meetings this week.
Not only had the Bruins (27-20-5) and Sabres (23-21-7) won three straight going into last weekend, both had allowed just three total goals over the runs behind solid play from their goaltenders.
Boston, though, lost 3-1 to Detroit on Saturday despite holding a 1-0 lead late in the second period.
"They're first in the league for a reason," said right wing Chuck Kobasew, who scored the Bruins' goal and has at least a point in the last four games. "They play tough and they play smart."
|The Sabres and the Bruins face off in an important Eastern Conference matchup at the TD Banknorth Garden in Boston tonight. (AP Photo/David Duprey)
Boston's Tim Thomas had 29 saves but allowed three goals in a start for the first time since Jan. 19. He had given up one goal in each of his last four starts since then.
The Bruins squandered an opportunity to extend their lead early in the second period, failing to convert on a 5-on-3 advantage that lasted nearly the full two minutes. They've gone 0-for-8 on the power play in the last two games despite having the league's fifth-best unit, which is converting at 19.3 percent.
"I thought for almost two-thirds of the game we played pretty well against them," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "The turning point in the game was that 5-on-3."
Boston hasn't lost consecutive games since Jan. 8 and 10, going 6-2-1 since. The Bruins also had a three-game winning streak at TD Banknorth Garden before Saturday's game.
The Sabres hope to move on from a late collapse against Atlanta on Friday. In a 5-4 shootout loss, they took two penalties in the final minute, allowed the tying goal on the Thrashers' 6-on-3 advantage and lost in the fourth round of the shootout.
"Stupid penalties cost us the game," coach Lindy Ruff said. "We made some mental mistakes that we couldn't afford."
The Sabres played the third period, overtime and the shootout with backup Jocelyn Thibault in net after starter Ryan Miller suffered a leg injury. Miller was coming off a shutout of Florida and has a 1.71 goals-against average in his last nine starts.
Ruff said the injury is not serious and Miller is expected to play Tuesday.
Boston is 3-0-1 against the Sabres this season, including wins in both of the teams' meetings in Boston. Three of the games came in the first two weeks of November, however, and the clubs haven't met since Boston won 4-1 at Buffalo on Dec. 10 despite getting outshot 45-21.
The Bruins were without an injured Thomas in that game, as backup Alex Auld stopped 44 shots.
This is the first of two straight against the Sabres for Boston, though Buffalo faces New Jersey on Wednesday before hosting the Bruins on Friday.
The Sabres, 11-13-5 on the road this season, will be closing out a seven-game trip.