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SABRES CAN'T PROTECT EARLY LEAD IN SHOOTOUT LOSS TO BOSTON

by Jourdon LaBarber / Buffalo Sabres
Even the hot hand can't do much with a broken stick. That was evident when Evander Kane, already with a goal and a career-high 11 shots, attempted a wrister with the Buffalo Sabres on the power play for a chance at an overtime winner on Thursday night.

Kane had Jack Eichel positioned soundly in front of the net and he himself was set in an area from which he, in the words of Sabres coach Dan Bylsma, has been money.

Then … snap.

"With Jack standing right in the net-front he's got a real good look and his stick breaks," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said. "You feel unfortunate, you feel like you let one slip away. I feel like we deserved better in this one and let it slip away."

"I broke three sticks this game so that wasn't helpful," Kane said."[We] didn’t get the job done at the end of the day and that's what counts."

The moment was indicative of a night where missed opportunities ultimately cost Buffalo a point in the standings. The power play eventually expired and so did the overtime period, opening the door for Boston's Ryan Spooner to score the only goal in a shootout to clinch a 3-2 victory for the Bruins.

Boston trailed 2-0 at one point early in the second period but battled back on the strength of goals from Spooner and Brad Marchand. Tuukka Rask made 26 saves to outduel Buffalo's Chad Johnson, who produced a 31-save effort.

In addition to Kane's goal, Sam Reinhart also tallied his 13th of the season for the Sabres. Brian Gionta and Mark Pysyk each added an assist.

"Even in the end we had our opportunities to win so it's a little bit frustrating," Reinhart said. "The best thing about this League is you get another opportunity and even better, it's against those guys in Boston in a couple days so we're going to prepare and focus on playing these guys again."


SECOND-PERIOD SWING
After Kane put the Sabres up 1-0 in the first period, it took just 47 seconds into the second period for Reinhart to double their lead. The rookie was able to establish a net-front presence in a battle with Zdeno Chara and tipped in a shot by Pysyk from the point.

"Right to the net front and Mark Pysyk made a great play with the move and getting the puck to the net," Bylsma said. "I don’t know if he out-battled Chara but he was there, he was in front and he got the tip. He was right where he's been good for us."

But the lead didn't last. Boston responded less than a minute later, with Spooner beating Johnson with a backhand shot off the rebound. The goal gave Boston new life and opened the door for Marchand to tie the game on an end-to-end goal at the conclusion of a Sabres power play 2:44 into the third.

"We barely had a chance to sit on it," Bylsma said of his team's brief two-goal lead. "We gave that one back to them, they get to 2-1 and make it a hockey game."


KANE'S LINE STRIKES AGAIN
One day after combining for 12 shots on goal, the line of Kane, Johan Larsson and Gionta made their presence felt again all over the ice. They combined for 21 shot attempts and forced the defensive-zone turnover that led to Kane's goal in the opening period.

Kane originally passed off to Gionta on a 2-on-1 rush, but the captain's shot rung off the crossbar toward the right-wing boards. Gionta recovered the puck, however, and he and Kane passed it back-and-forth three times until Kane banked it in off the leg of Boston's David Pastrnak.

"It was a good play to stay on the puck," Kane said. "I thought Gio scored there but we got the puck back, made the nice play and we were able to put it away so it was a good start for our line … I thought we as a group could have had three or four more."

After complementing Kane's work on the forecheck in Buffalo's win over Montreal on Wednesday, Bylsma said that this might have been Kane's strongest performance of the season.

"He's scored more goals maybe, but that's as strong and big as he's played," Bylsma said. "And Larsson as well … I think you see it more defensively with Larsson but he's been big and strong cutting good players off and winning puck battles and going the other way."


THE CHAD JOHNSON CLUTCH HIGHLIGHT REEL GROWS
Buffalo's goaltender has had a penchant for making big-time stops already this season, like when dived to save the game in overtime in Philadelphia or when he did it again as time expired in the third period in Detroit.

Add Thursday's overtime save on Patrice Bergeron with Buffalo on the penalty kill to that list.



SHIPPING UP
The Sabres will close out their season series with the Bruins and finish off their home-and-home set at TD Garden on Saturday night. Buffalo won its only game of the season on Boston's home ice 6-3 on Dec. 26.

Coverage on Saturday begins at 6:30 p.m. with Tops Sabres Gamenight on MSG-B and Bell TV. The broadcast will also features the third installment of Sabres Showdown, pitting rookie Jack Eichel against Rasmus Ristolainen.

The game can also be heard live on WGR 550 with puck drop set for 7 p.m.

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