The Boston Bruins took advantage of their frequent meetings with the last-place Buffalo Sabres to close April on a strong note.
Looking to carry their recent success into May, the Bruins aim for a third straight victory while trying to conclude the season series with another win over the visiting Sabres on Saturday.
Fourth in the East Division and one point back of the third-place New York Islanders, Boston (29-14-6, 64 points) closed April by winning eight of 10. The Bruins went 4-1-0 against the Sabres (13-31-7, 33 points) during that stretch, capped by Thursday’s 5-2 victory to improve to 6-1-0 on the season series.
David Krejci and Brad Marchand each had a goal with an assist as Boston broke a 2-2 game open by scoring three unanswered in the third period. The 35-year-old Krejci has six goals with five assists in his last 10 games, and three with six assists versus Buffalo this season.
“He’s reenergized in terms of attacking,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of Krejci.
“I’d say the biggest thing is his pace. He’s playing with a little more pace. … He’s making plays, obviously, and finishing plays while he’s doing it.”
Marchand has totaled six of his team-leading 60 points against the Sabres. Teammate Tuukka Rask, who made 29 saves Thursday, has a 2.23 goals-against average in three starts versus Buffalo this season. Jaroslav Halak has stopped 27 of 29 shots in two games against the Sabres in 2020-21.
Buffalo, already with an eye on the future, has recorded seven of its 13 wins since March 31, but dropped three straight — all on the road — and five of the last six — 1-3-0 against the Bruins during that stretch. However, Sabres interim coach Don Granato continues to see progress within a group of young talent that’s gaining valuable experience with little pressure down the final stretch of the season.
“I keep saying it, we have to get better, and so that is the push, to get better,” Granato said. “Again, you compete every night to win.
“Collectively, we’re getting better. When you do that and you keep getting better, everything eventually becomes easier. And, we’re not at that point obviously yet, we’re still fighting and scratching and clawing.”
Sam Reinhart and Casey Mittelstadt each had a goal Thursday and have been two of the biggest bright spots for the Sabres of late. Reinhart’s recorded six of his team-leading 23 goals while matching a career-high, four-game goal streak. Mittelstadt has a point in four straight contests and nine goals with five assists in his last 17.
Reinhart’s scored five times versus Boston this season, while Mittelstadt has a goal in each of the last two against the Bruins.
Buffalo could again turn to promising Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who has made his first three career starts in net this season. He’s stopped 71 of 79 shots while splitting two of those against the Bruins. Teammate Dustin Tokarski is 0-2-1 with a 3.04 goals-against average versus Boston in 2020-21.
–Field Level Media