With the team in the midst of its longest losing streak of the season, Connolly's return after missing seven games due to injury rejuvenated a stumbling Sabres team and his pair of assists helped Buffalo snap its six-game losing skid with a 4-3 victory over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday night.
"We needed that win really badly," said Connolly, whose team stands just three points shy of clinching its first playoff appearance in five years. "When you're on a skid, the first win is always the toughest one to get. It always seems like nothing goes right. We battled hard for this win, deserved it, we're happy with it and now we can forget about those six consecutive losses."
Buffalo's offense ran smoother and more efficiently with Connolly in the lineup that it has in the last two weeks. Connolly's two assists gives him eight points (2+6) in the last five games he has appeared in, and his deke around Wayne Primeau on Chris Drury's goal in the third period sent the Bruins center into the next county.
"I felt great out there and I was a little surprised," said Connolly. "I had one penalty kill where I got caught on the ice for about two minutes. Other than that, I felt like I never missed a beat."
"Tim's creativity has been a big asset for us all year," said Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff. "It was great to see him step-in and play as well as he did right off the bat. There didn't seem to be any drop-off."
Connolly, who hails from Syracuse, NY, missed the Sabres last six games after spraining his knee against Toronto on March 16. He logged 21 shifts and played nearly 19 minutes against Boston, including almost five minutes on Buffalo's power-play unit, which converted on two of seven opportunities.
"(Playing on the power play) is one of my stronger assets as a hockey player," said Connolly. "I was fortunate to get out there, get some opportunities and we scored on them."
"He hasn't played in a while," joked Ruff about Connolly's ice time. "He owed us some minutes."
Continuing his strong play from Monday night in New York, Dumont scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner. Drury had a goal and an assist, while Max Afinogenov scored his 19th goal of the season less than two minutes into the second period.
Daniel Briere was held goalless for just the second time in four games, but finished with three assists in the game. He has now recorded 26 points (8+18) in the last 16 games.
"We had a couple of backdoor chances that we missed," said Connolly. "We could have easily had three or four more goals out there."
Off a Henrik Tallinder giveaway at the Sabres blueline during four-on-four play, David Tanade flashed to the net and snapped a wristshot topshelf for his fifth goal of the season and a 0-1 Boston lead at 6:47 of the first.
On a two-on-two rush, Connolly feathered a centering pass from the right wing which Dumont redirected past Tim Thomas for Buffalo's first goal of the game and his 16th of the season at 18:46.
Buffalo kept the momentum going and took its first lead of the game off a tic-tac-toe play less than two minutes into the second.
After feeding Thomas Vanek
in the high slot, Derek Roy
received the Austrian's return pass and fired across-ice to Afinogenov, who was cutting to the net on the right wing, for the chip shot at 1:53. Thomas got a piece of Afinogenov's offering with his glove, but not enough.
With Toni Lydman barely able to stand after taking a slapshot in the leg, Brad Boyes
setup Brad Stuart's redirect in front of the net by slipping a pass around the doubled-over defenseman. Stuart's 11th goal of the season tied the game 2-2 at 13:08.
Receiving an across-ice pass from Daniel Briere, Connolly deked Wayne Primeau –pulling the puck from his forehand to backhand as he skated around the center - and found Drury alone at the left post for his 14th power-play goal and career-high 25th of the season at 1:16 of the third.
Marty Reasoner nets his 11th goal of the season at 9:38 after redirecting Brad Isbister's pass from the left wing past Ryan Miller
, who finished the game with 24 saves.
Drury fought off two defensemen to keep the puck in Boston's zone and chipped a pass to Briere, who finds Dumont on the backdoor for his second goal of the game, 17th of the season and game-winner at 10:40 of the third on the power-play.
---------------------------------------- SCORING REPORTS
| Super Stats
| Faceoff Comp
| Play By Play
| Shift Chart GAME BLOG:
0-1 (6:47): Off a Henrik Tallinder giveaway at the Sabres blueline during four-on-four play, David Tanade skated to the left post and snapped a wristshot topshelf for his fifth goal of the season. Marty Reasoner gets the lone helper.
1-1 (18:46): On the rush, Tim Connolly feathers a centering pass from the right wing that JP Dumont redirected past Tim Thomas for Buffalo's first goal of the game. The goal is Dumont's 16th of the season. Connolly and Daniel Briere get the helpers. Period 2
2-1 (1:53): Buffalo took its first lead off a tic-tac-toe play. Skating down the left wing, Derek Roy
slid the puck to Thomas Vanek
, who slipped a return pass to the center. Roy then fed Maxim Afinogenov with an across-ice pass for the one-timer and his 19th goal of the season. Boston netminder Tim Thomas got a piece of Afinogenov's offering with his glove, but not enough. Roy and Vanek get the helpers.
2-2 (13:08): With Toni Lydman hobblings from taking a shot in the leg, Brad Boyes
setup Brad Stuart's redirect and his 11th goal of the season. Lydman could barely stand after blocking Boyes slapshot from the left point. Period 3
3-2 (1:16): Receiving an across-ice pass from Daniel Briere, Tim Connolly dekes Wayne Primeau into the next county and found Chris Drury alone at the left post for his 14th power-play goal and 25th of the season. Connolly and Briere get the helpers.
3-3 (9:38): Marty Reasoner nets his 11th goal of the season after redirecting Brad Isbister's pass from the left wing past Ryan Miller
on the two-on-two rush. Maxim Afinogenov failed to tie Reasoner's stick up on the backcheck and stopped skating on the play.
4-3 (10:40): Chris Drury fought off two defensemen to keep the puck in Boston's zone and chips a pass to Briere, who finds JP Dumont on the backdoor for his second goal of the game and 17th of the season.