Sabres snap Bruins’ season-best 6-game win streak in 6-4 win
Sabres goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen was so composed after winning his first NHL career start, he was able to crack a joke over how things nearly unraveled for him and Buffalo before pulling out a 6-4 win over the Boston Bruins on Friday night.
First, the the 22-year-old rebounded from allowing a goal on the first shot he faced. Luukkonen then battled back after the Bruins scored three times in a 5:06 span in the third period - two of them going in off the stick of Buffalo defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen - capped by Taylor Hall's goal with 2:48 remaining.
"Oh yeah, I appreciate Risto keeping me honest and keeping things interesting here," Luukkonen said, before pausing and adding: "No I'm just kidding."
He and Ristolainen shared a laugh about what happened after Sam Reinhart capped his fourth career three-goal outing with an empty-netter in the final minute.
"He said, `Sorry about that," Luukkonen said of Ristolainen. "In the end, it doesn't really matter because we got the win."
Luukkonen stopped 36 shots, and the Sabres ended the Bruins' season-best six-game winning streak.
Rasmus Dahlin had a goal and assist as Buffalo snapped an 0-8-2 skid against the Bruins, dating to a 4-2 win on Dec. 16, 2018. Casey Mittelstadt and Arttu Ruotsalainen also scored for Buffalo, which had been outscored 7-1 in losing the first two games of a three-game homestand against Boston, including a 5-1 loss on Thursday.
Steven Kampfer had a goal and two assists, and Nick Ritchie and Kevan Miller also scored for Boston.
Boston squandered an opportunity to gain ground in a tightly contested race for the East Division lead. The Bruins remain in fourth with four points separating the top four teams.
"We've played a lot of hockey, so we can't dwell on it. It's too late in the year for that," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "In the big picture reality, Buffalo was probably the better team and deserved to win. But we did put ourselves in a position to get points at the end, so that's a positive."
The Bruins were without captain Patrice Bergeron, who was a late scratch as a result of a lower-body injury and listed as day to day by Cassidy.
Tuukka Rask, coming off a 32-save shutout of Buffalo on Tuesday, was yanked after stopping 24 shots and giving up Ruotsalainen's goal that put Buffalo up 4-1 at the 1:14 mark of the third period.
Jaroslav Halak allowed Reinhart's second power-play goal on the first shot he faced, and finished with four saves in his first appearance since entering the NHL's COVID-19 protocol on April 5.
Dahlin scored the go-ahead goal 6:54 into the second period, when teammate Riley Sheahan's drop pass missed teammate Tobias Rieder in the slot and the puck slid to the blue line. Dahlin slapped a shot inside the right post, with Rask screened by a crowd in front.
The Bruins appeared flat at a time Cassidy said several players were feeling the after-affects of receiving their COVID-19 vaccine immediately following the game in Buffalo on Tuesday.
With the far more established fellow Finnish countryman Rask in the Bruins net, Luukkonen gave up Kampfer's goal 2:15 in and then stopped the next 28 shots before Ritchie scored to cut Buffalo's lead to 5-2 with 7:54 remaining.
"Quite a spectrum in that game," said interim coach Don Granato, who improved to 7-10-3 since Ralph Krueger was fired with Buffalo having a 6-18-4 record on March 17. "I think all the excitement, if (Luukkonen) was anything like me, it was probably a relief to get the game over with."
Luukkonen, Buffalo's second-round pick in the 2017 draft, got the start with the Sabres out of playoff contention and with Linus Ullmark and backup Carter Hutton sidelined with lower-body injuries.
Buffalo converted two of three power-play opportunities after going 2 of 27 in its previous eight games, including 0 of 11 in the past two against Boston. The Sabres entered the game converting just five of their past 69 power-play chances over a 30-game stretch.
Bruins: Miller returned after missing five games with an undisclosed injury, and replaced Connor Clifton.
Sabres: Luukkonen became the fifth goalie to play for the Sabres this season. Buffalo joined the Ottawa Senators, who have also had an NHL-high five goalies make an appearance. He became the 398th player, and 39th goalie to play for Buffalo in 302 games -- a franchise-high against any opponent -- versus Boston. ... With Ullmark expected to miss the remainder of the season, interim coach Don Granato called it "probable" Hutton will return.
Bruins: Complete five-game road trip with two games at the Pittsburgh Penguins, starting on Sunday.
Sabres: Open four-game road trip with two games at the New York Rangers, starting on Sunday.