by Brian Wheeler
Practice makes perfect and four days of intense work by the Sabres on their power play unit paid off on Thursday night. Buffalo notched two goals on the man advantage en route to a 4-3 victory over the Boston Bruins at the TD Banknorth Garden in front of a crowd of 15,425.
"(The power play) is an area we worked on the last few days and I thought we did a lot better job moving the puck," stated head coach Lindy Ruff, whose team had failed to convert on their last 25 power-play opportunities coming into the contest. "Tonight, we needed (the power play) to win the game for us and it did."
Buffalo has now defeated Boston twice in their first two meetings of the regular season, a feat the team hadn't accomplished since the 1998-99 season.
"We are playing every team in our division eight times," said Ruff of the NHL's new scheduling format. "The rivalries are going to build and that is going to be the great thing about playing all of these division games. Every game is going to gain a little bit different story."
Daniel Briere opened the scoring for Buffalo with the Sabres first power play goal of the night at 14:55 of the first period. Briere skated to within 10 feet of the net and snapped a wrist shot high over Boston goaltender Hannu Toivonen for his sixth goal of the season.
The Sabres co-captain has now scored a goal in each of Buffalo's last three games.
Boston tied the game just two minutes later as Sergei Samsonov stuffed a rebound past Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller
at 16:46. Samsonov would finish the night leading all scorers with two goals.
PJ Axelsson gave the Bruins their only lead of the game just 42 seconds into the second period after receiving a nice pass from Hal Gill and driving to the net.
Tim Connolly tied the game at 13:19 of the second with his first goal of the season. Connolly was the benefactor of a beautiful pass from Maxim Afinogenov, as the Russian one-timed Ales Kotalik's across-ice pass to the Syracuse, N.Y. native for the easy chip shot.
Following the game, Connolly gave all the credit for the marker to Kotalik and Afinogenov.
"That was a great play by my linemates really," stated Connolly. "It was a tremendous play by those two to get the puck right to where I was on the backdoor."
The goal was long awaited for Connolly, who hadn't scored in the NHL in more than 30 months after missing the entire 2003-04 season due to post-concussion syndrome.
Ruff's confidence in Connolly never waived despite the center being held scoreless in the first six games of the season. Time was all Ruff thought the center needed.
"I only looked at the number of great chances he's had," said Ruff. "As soon as you get off the slump, you are always going to produce a little bit more and not press as much."
Connolly finished the night with two points after assisting on JP Dumont's goal at 2:08 of the third.
"We have been saying all along that we don't want to lose two games in a row because that can cause a snowball effect," stated Connolly, who last recorded a multi-point game on April 2, 2003 against the Atlanta Thrashers. "We came in, battled hard and got a good road win."
Ales Kotalik's second goal of the season sealed the victory for Buffalo at 13:48 in the third.
Miller once again received the start in goal for Buffalo, stopping 29 of 32 shots in his fifth win.
"We want to be a team that can bounce back and play well every night," said Miller. "We didn't have things go our way in Florida, and the team just wanted to have a good week of practice and execute when we came to Boston. I think we did a good job of it."
Buffalo now holds a road record of 2-2 and moves to 5-2-0 on the season.
"I think you can usually define how good your team is by how you win on the road," said Ruff.
The Sabres will next face the New York Rangers on Saturday night in HSBC Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 PM.
--------------------------------------------- SCORING REPORTS
| Super Stats
| Faceoff Comp
| Play By Play
| Shift Chart GAME BLOG: Period 1
1-0 (14:55): Daniel Briere breaks the Sabres power-play slump with a high wrist shot that beats Bruins goaltender Hannu Toivonen on the man advantage. Boston allowed Briere to skate to within 10 feet of the net and unload the fierce shot. The goal is his sixth of the season and fourth in three games. JP Dumont (4) and Thomas Vanek
(5) are credited with the assists.
1-1 (16:46): Sergei Samsonov stuffs a rebound past Miller to tie the game with the power play goal. After having his first shot blocked by Rory Fitzpatrick, Kevin Dallman snapped a wrist shot from the right face-off circle that Miller saved. The rebound ended up on Samsonov's stick and then in the net. Dallman (1) and Brian Leetch (3) record the assists. Period 2
1-2 (0:42): Hal Gill slides the puck to PJ Axelsson, who slips the puck under Ryan Miller
to give Boston their first lead of the game less than a minute into the second period. The goal is the fourth of the season for Axelsson. Gill (1) and Tom Fitzgerald (3) register the assists.
2-2 (13:19): Tim Connolly ties the game with his first goal of the season. Cursing through the neutral zone, Ales Kotalik found Maxim Afinogenov on the far face-off circle. Afinogenov immediately one times the pass to Connolly directly in front of the net for the score. The assist is Afinogenov's first and Kotalik's second. Period 3
3-2 (2:08): Tim Connolly lets a shot go from the point that JP Dumont deflects past Toivonen for Buffalo's second power play goal of the game. Both Connolly and Dumont record their second points of the game on the play. Toni Lydman gets the other helper. The Sabres are now two for five on the man advantage.
4-2 (13:48): Dmitri Kalinin's high, flip pass into the Bruins' zone allowed Ales Kotalik time to slip behind Boston's defense. Kotalik collects the loose puck and backhanded the shot into the net. Teppo Numminen gets the second helper.
4-3 (14:13): Nick Boynton rips a shot from point that is tipped by Sergei Samsonov past Ryan Miller
just 25 seconds later. The goal was reviewed by the referee to determined whether Murray's tip was a high stick. Joe Thornton and Sergei Samsonov both record their second assists of the game.
Quotes courtesy of WGR 550-AM, the official radio partner of the Buffalo Sabres.