For a time, it looked like the stage was set for another third-period comeback. The Buffalo Sabres found themselves within a goal of tying the game when Evander Kane hit the back of the net with 10:48 still remaining in regulation against the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon, one of 18 shots the Sabres would record in the third period.
Unlike their come-from-behind win over New York on Thursday, however, the Sabres never did complete the rally. Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask turned in a 35-save performance and the Sabres were unable to make up for their slow first period in a 2-1 loss.
"We had some chances throughout the course of the game that didn't go in unfortunately," Kane said. "We've got to find ways to put those away."
The 18 shot third-period was a far cry from the three shots they put on net in the first, all of which came in the first 4:44 of play. Boston took the lead with 5:50 remaining in that period when David Krejci tipped a point shot from defenseman Brandon Carlo in past Lehner off the crossbar. Krejci was one of four bodies screening goalie Robin Lehner in front of the net, including two Sabres.
"I liked our first five minutes of the game and then it dropped off," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "We struggled getting out of the defensive zone, turned the puck over there and gave them momentum, gave them opportunities."
The Sabres got back to the way they hoped to play in the next two periods, outshooting the Bruins 33-23 the rest of the way. Still, it was another defensive zone turnover - this one an intercepted exit pass by Rasmus Ristolainen that led to Patrice Bergeron scoring Boston's second goal in the third period.
Buffalo, meanwhile, was stoned by Rask at seemingly every turn. When they finally did put a puck past him in the second period, it was waved off when it was ruled that Brian Gionta kicked the puck into the net.
"Brendan Guhle had a shot from the point there that I don't think Rask saw at all and it still found a way to hit him," Bylsma said. "The rebound comes to Gio and he's trying to kick it up to his stick to get another whack at it, it goes through there and as I said I was pretty certain they were going to disallow that one … You start to think, 'How are we going to get one by this guy?'"
Kane nearly ignited the comeback with his goal in the third period, which came on a feed from Sam Reinhart behind the net. The goal was Kane's first since of the season, which has been limited to 13 games due to injury.
Video: BOS@BUF: Kane scores as wrist shot sneaks past Mason
"I think he hasn't shot the puck this year the way he normally does and he's had opportunities to do it," Bylsma said of Kane. "This was a goal you typically see form Evander, it was a shooting spot for him and [it was] good to see him get that goal for us."
The loss snaps a two-game winning streak for the Sabres and a departure from their high-scoring performances in those two games with Jack Eichel back in the lineup. Buffalo combined for nine goals in wins over Ottawa and New York this week.
Part of that scoring success has come from the power play, on which the Sabres were 0-for-3 on Saturday, albeit with only 5:10 of ice time on the man advantage.
The Sabres' next chance to rebound will come on the road in Washington, D.C. against the Capitals on Monday.
For all of the factors seemingly weighing against Brendan Guhle in his debut - the fact he is a 19-year-old defenseman, or the fact he had been playing in junior this season prior to Saturday, or the fact that he didn't arrive in Buffalo until after 1 a.m. on Friday night - he certainly looked the part of an NHL defenseman.
Bylsma praised Guhle's skating ability prior to the game on Saturday, and Guhle displayed it on both ends of the ice against the Bruins. Guhle led the Sabres with seven shot attempts in 16:20 of ice time. It was Guhle's shot from the point that led to Gionta's would-be goal in the second period.
"On puck retrievals, in the offensive zone, he was moving around like he was playing in juniors," his partner Cody Franson said. "Coming into D-zone situations he was comfortable, he was talking, and you couldn't ask for more out of that from a kid coming from juniors."
There were two plays in the third period that best exemplified not only Guhle's skating, but his poise. The first was a rush in the offensive zone, when Guhle blew through the neutral zone past the Boston defense to shoot alone on Rask.
"He certainly wasn't shy about using his skating and jumping into the play," Bylsma said. "He did that in the second period, did that in the third period … He was good in the game."
The second play came in the defensive zone, when David Krejci appeared to have a clear lane for a breakaway. Guhle sped back from center ice, got in front of Krejci and calmly poked the puck away before Krejci could take his shot.
"He was a righty coming down the left side so I knew he was he was going I knew he was going to try to get it to his forehand," Guhle said. "He probably wouldn't get much off his backhand."
Guhle admitted there were "a lot" of nerves when he took the ice early in the game, but you wouldn't know it by looking at him.
"That's one of the main traits of my game is simple, easy, not a complicated game," he said. "It's easier to do out there with all of those good players."
The Sabres will hit the road for a rematch with the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on Monday night. The Capitals took the first meeting between the two teams by a score of 3-1 on Nov. 25.
Coverage on Monday begins with the TOPS Game Night pregame show at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B, or you can listen live on WGR 550. The puck drops in Washington at 7 p.m.