BOSTON – It may not have been quite like Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier in 1975, but don’t tell that to Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan.
His team found a way in the third period of their game Tuesday night against the Boston Bruins to come back and tie it up after being dominated through 40 minutes of play.
After two periods, Boston held a 1-0 lead and held a 26-10 edge in shots on goal. However, Buffalo capitalized on a power-play opportunity early in the third period to even the score and eventually won 2-1 in the shootout at TD Garden.
Rasmus Ristolainen scored on that man advantage for Buffalo and Tyler Ennis put home the lone goal in the shootout. Anders Lindback made 44 saves through regulation and overtime to pick up his first win as a Sabre.
“We were talking in between periods, it was almost like the Thrilla in Manila,” Nolan said. “We just roped-a-doped them. I think they got tired going in our offensive zone for the whole period.
“They seemed to be in there for almost 19 minutes and Lindback played great. I thought we were in pretty good position defensively for a vast majority of the game. We had to be. To luck it out at the end was good for this group.”
Buffalo has now earned points in three of its past four games but hadn’t won since Feb. 26 – a span of nine games. Lindback has appeared in each of Buffalo’s past seven games, starting six of them. In that stretch he’s stopped 227 of the 243 shots he’s faced for a .934 save percentage.
“You have to be able to give your team a chance to win every night as a starting goalie in this League and it’s not an easy thing,” Lindback said.
“It’s what I’ve been working for and trying to get there. But it’s only a couple games here. We still want to keep winning. We still want to keep doing the right things. I do think we’re going to keep working hard all the way here though.”
The Sabres acquired Lindback and a conditional third-round pick in a trade with Dallas on Feb. 11 for goaltender Jhonas Enroth. Since he arrived the next day, Lindback has been working closely with goaltending coach Arturs Irbe.
Nolan has said on numerous occasions that the time Lindback and Irbe are spending together has really been paying off.
The coaching staff considered starting Matt Hackett against Boston but Irbe was adamant that Lindback was the right guy to put in. Lindback had played the night before in Buffalo during their 4-3 shootout loss to the Capitals, making 35 saves on 38 shots.
“[Irbe is] the one who saw something with this kid, worked with him, worked with him,” Nolan said. “We were thinking of going with Hackett tonight. He said, ‘Hey, let’s put [Lindback] back in’ so he has a real good feel for goaltenders and has done a great job.”
Lindback was quick to credit his teammates for their efforts in front of him. Buffalo was credited with 28 blocked shots against the Bruins, who ended up with 95 shot attempts to Buffalo’s 47.
“We as a team, we’ve been working so hard and where we are in the standings, it’s a tough situation to be in for everybody that is here. But I’ve got to say I’m just impressed with everybody who just keeps battling and keep plugging on a day like this. It feels good.”
Ennis’ shootout tally in the bottom of the first round was initially waved off. Ennis faked a slap shot, waited for goaltender Nicklas Svdeberg to bite on it and then cut it and lifted a shot into the top of the net. But because the puck came straight out, it appeared that it could have hit the crossbar.
Ennis trusted his ears and knew that it was a good goal. He pleaded his case and eventually, the officials made the correct call. He’s now 5-for-12 in the shootout this season.
“It sounded soft so there’s no possible way It couldn’t have gone in if sounded that soft it so I was happy,” Ennis said. “…The last few, I haven’t been raising it when I had a chance to raise it so I made sure I went top shelf with that one. I’m glad it went in.”
Torey Krug ended up missing wide on his attempt in the top of the third round to clinch the victory for Buffalo.
“They were outplaying us pretty bad. Lindy really stepped up and kept us in it,” Ennis said. “Our power play’s going, which is good. It got us back in the game and then we won in the shootout.”
Lindback hasn’t had the best luck in the shootout lately and he wanted to make sure he closed the door against Boston.
“I told myself, ‘I’m not losing three shootouts in a row here,’” he said.
ONE FOR, ONE AGAINST
Boston took the lead with 10:05 remaining in the first period when Louis Eriksson capitalized on a bad bounce in the Sabres zone. Off a faceoff, a shot ended up deflecting off Sabres center Tim Schaller and off the end boards.
The puck bounced straight back out where Eriksson caught Lindback unprepared to give the Bruins the lead.
The Bruins controlled play for much of the first two periods but the Sabres came out for a strong showing in the third.
Buffalo opened the third period on the power play and converted quickly. At the 1:23 mark of the period, a wrist shot from the point by Ristolainen deflected off Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski and in past Niklas Svedberg.
The goal was Ristolainen’s fifth of the season. That power-play unit, consisting of Johan Larsson, Matt Moulson and Brian Gionta with Ennis and Ristolainen at the points has converted in consecutive games.
“Last night, we also had a good power play and we just keep building from that and tried to get some shots,” Ristolainen said. “We were lucky but I think we earned it.”
Larsson, who picked up the secondary assist on the goal, now has points in back-to-back games (1+1) and six points (3+3) in his past five.
Buffalo will have a day off on Wednesday before returning to the ice for practice at First Niagara Center on Thursday.
Their next game is Friday night against the New Jersey Devils at 7 p.m. and right after that, they’ll fly out for a two-game road trip that’ll see them take on the Nashville Predators and then the Dallas Stars.
The Tops Game Night pregame show begins Friday at 6:30 p.m. on MSG-B and Bell. The game against New Jersey can also be heard live on WGR 550.