When the final buzzer rang, Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel swung his stick in disgust at the boards, clearly frustrated after a 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins. The Sabres came out of the gate fast, but cooled off more and more as the game went on, losing a game it looked like they had early on. Five observations from Thursday's loss:
The third period for the Sabres was one of their worst in recent memory, and that's saying something. They've had some stinkers these last few weeks, but in a tie game, against the team they're chasing in the playoffs, there is no excuse for that effort.
After the game, Sabres forward Kyle Okposo told reporters that the Sabres need to do a better job handling momentum.
Marcus Foligno agreed -- he said they started fast early, but couldn't get things going on in the second or third period.
The Sabres finished the game with 33 shots but had only seven in the third period.
"It (leaves) a really terrible taste in our mouth after the 2-0 lead," Foligno added. "We have to make sure we're ready to go on New Year's Eve."
A game they needed
Heading in to Thursday's game, the Sabres were six points behind the Bruins, but had played three less games. This game was a golden opportunity for the Sabres to close the gap with a team they are chasing in the playoff race, but they failed. The Sabres still have three games in hand, but now are eight points behind the Bruins and 0-3 against Boston this season. Don't get me wrong, this was it not a must win game, but it was about as important as a regular-season game can be in December.
Another fast start
After getting held without a first period goal for seven straight games, the Sabres scored in back to back first periods on Tuesday, and again on Thursday.
It didn't take the Sabres long to get things going offensively. Just 1:32 into the game, Marcus Foligno beat Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask from in front of the net. Both Matt Moulson and Jack Eichel earned assists on the goal, but deserve major credit for creating the pressure that led to the goal.
Buffalo took a 2-0 lead with less than two minutes left in the first period thanks to an absolute laser from Kyle Okposo on the power play.
Personally, I think that was the Sabres best opening period of the season. They controlled play at both ends and generated plenty of chances. If it wasn't for stellar Bruins goaltending it may have been 4-0. Clearly, the fast start wasn't enough.
Tuukka gon' Tuukka
And speaking of that stellar goaltending -- Tuukka Rask was phenomenal on Thursday night. All season the Sabres have had trouble beating Rask, scoring only three goals in three games against the Bruins net-minder.
Rask was especially impressive in the first period, turning away 14 of Buffalo's 16 shots. The two goals he did let in were thanks to a defensive breakdown and an absolutely perfect shot-- not much a goaltender can do about that.
Let's get physical
I think it's safe to say these two teams don't like each other very much. Whatever, it made for a fun, physical game.
Things were chippy off the bat, but really picked up after Sabres forward William Carrier plastered Bruins forward David Backes late in the first period. Carrier received a two minute minor penalty for a hit to the head, but after watching the hit several times I think the call could go either way. A few minutes later, Bruins defender Adam McQuaid went after Carrier before the two dropped the gloves. Carrier got in some shots, but the linesman looked like they were holding back McQuaid during the scuffle.
From that moment on, things got very chippy. When Brian Gionta starts shoving people you know things are getting real. The two teams will have a day to unwind back square off again Saturday afternoon.