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'It's fun to play like this' | Sabres battle back in SO loss to Bruins

5 takeaways from Tuesday's game in Boston

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber / Sabres.com

Rasmus Dahlin was sent from behind into the boards by Boston Bruins forward Nick Ritchie during the first period on Tuesday, resulting in a boarding penalty for Ritchie and prompting the first of two fights between the Sabres and Bruins. 

It was that sort of night at TD Garden. The veteran Bruins, clinging to fourth place in the East Division, took the ice looking to exert their will on a younger opponent. The Sabres fought back, both literally and on the scoreboard, in a 3-2 overtime loss. 

Dahlin, playing on his 21st birthday, scored the tying goal with 8:07 remaining to force overtime. Afterward, he was left wanting more. 

"I haven't been in a playoff game, but it didn't feel like a regular-season game," he said afterward. "… It's fun to play like this. Every battle means something. We all enjoy playing these games." 

The game left plenty to discuss. Linus Ullmark and Riley Sheahan both left with injuries while Anders Bjork made his Sabres debut against the team he played for just two days prior. The physicality, meanwhile, left room for intrigue with five remaining games between the Sabres and Bruins over the next month. 

Our takeaways start with yet another response from Buffalo's youth-laden lineup. 

Video: Condensed Game: Sabres @ Bruins

 

1. Sabres elevate after slow start

Colin Miller scored on a shot from the point 1:52 into the contest to give the Sabres an early cushion, but adversity struck soon after.

Ullmark left the game with an injury 4:54 into the first period and was replaced by Dustin Tokarski. Riley Sheahan was sent to the dressing room following a hard hit by Ritchie, who then took a boarding penalty for his hit on Dahlin. It was the first of three Bruins penalties in the period. 

The Sabres went scoreless on the three power plays and entered the dressing room with the game tied 1-1. Interim coach Don Granato felt his team was "messy" through the first 20 minutes and felt the physicality was at least partially a byproduct of mishandling the puck.

Video: POSTGAME: Granato

"I don't think our guys were happy with the first period," Granato said. "I don't think they were happy with how they felt, and they elevated. It was really nice to see. Nice to see that response by our guys. The competitive level just rose."

Craig Smith scored the lone goal of the second period to give the Bruins a 2-1 lead. The Sabres fought back in the third, outshooting the Bruins 10-7 and earning the tying goal on a shot from the point by Dahlin that deflected off of former teammate Curtis Lazar on its way into the net. 

It was the fourth time the Sabres erased a third-period deficit in April. 

"The group we have in the locker room is such a great group," Dahlin said. "A couple games ago we turned the game around and now we know we can do that. We all believe in our system, we all believe in each other. It's a good chemistry we got going on in the locker room."

 

2. Irwin, Thompson fight back 

Matt Irwin fought Ritchie, his teammate for nine games last season in Anaheim, during the second period in response to Ritchie's hits on Sheahan and Dahlin. Tage Thompson fought Kevan Miller seconds after Miller sent Rasmus Asplund to the ice with a check into the boards.

"I love the way our teammates stuck up for each other and they did it quick and they responded in that regard," Granato said. "They found it within them to fight through a night when they didn't feel good, things weren't as sharp as they would like."

 

3. Bjork's debut

Bjork won a battle behind the Boston net on the sequence that led to Miller's goal, earning the secondary assist during his first shift with Sabres. He finished the night with one shot in 13:55 and just missed a 2-on-1 chance to win the game in overtime. 

Video: POSTGAME: Bjork

The Sabres acquired Bjork from the Bruins on Monday along with a second-round pick in exchange for Lazar and Taylor Hall. All three players were in the lineup Tuesday. 

"I felt alright, but it was weird, for sure. Just a crazy 48 hours for sure," Bjork said. "It was kind of a whirlwind, but I felt alright. I think I've got a lot more to show and can play a more complete game. Some of that's learning the system a little better and getting to know the guys, my linemates, and things like that. I think I can build a lot and hopefully quickly."

Bjork had positive things to say regarding his first impression of the Sabres. 

"I mean there's a ton of skill in this room," he said. "A lot of young guys obviously so everyone's still learning, including myself, a lot of them, but they have so much skill and compete. The older guys have done such a great job already I've noticed of paving the way and setting a good mentality. 

"It's a fun group. Remain positive and focus on competing. It was cool. We didn't get the result we wanted but we were close against a good team. Something to build off, for sure."

 

4. No update on Ullmark

The goaltender left the game after dropping to the butterfly to make a save early in the first period. He previously missed 15 games with a lower-body injury that kept him out from Feb. 27 to March 27. 

Video: BUF@BOS: Tokarski replaces Ullmark after injury

Granato said he did not expect an update on Ullmark until Wednesday morning at the earliest. 

Tokarski entered in relief and made 29 saves on 31 shots. 

 

5. The big picture

The Sabres are 4-2-3 in their past nine games as they continue to force comebacks and receive contributions from their young core. Dahlin's goal marked his sixth point over the past six contests. 

The next week and a half should offer plenty more opportunity for the type of atmosphere they enjoyed Tuesday. The Sabres conclude their road trip against the first-place Capitals on Thursday then return to Buffalo for back-to-back games against the third-place Penguins.
After that, it's three games in four days against the Bruins. 

Coverage on Thursday begins at 6:30 p.m. on MSG. The puck drops at 7.

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