BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP)David Pastrnak, better known as ”Pasta,” is finally starting to cook for the Boston Bruins.
The four-time 30-plus goal scorer scored and added two assists for his third multi-point outing in five games, and the Bruins won their sixth straight with a 5-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday night.
”Hopefully, this is a sign of things to come for him, because he’s fought it a little bit lately,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. ”Maybe this is what he needs, a game like this to get him going a little bit. Even his legs looked a little better tonight.”
The goal was Pastrnak’s 18th of the season, and extended his point streak to five games in which he has two goals and eight assists.
Matt Grzelcyk scored the go-ahead goal 12:50 into the second period, and rookie Jeremy Swayman stopped 29 shots. Brad Marchand, with his team-leading 25th, Nick Ritchie and David Krejci also scored for the Bruins.
The winning streak coincides with Boston acquiring Taylor Hall and Curtis Lazar in a trade with Buffalo on April 12, and matches the team’s longest since a six-game run from Jan. 21 to Feb. 8 last season.
The Bruins are also on a 13-4-2 run that has propelled them into a tightly contested race for first place in the East Division. Four points continue separating the first-place Washington Capitals and fourth-place Bruins following the results on Thursday.
Arttu Ruotsalainen scored for Buffalo, which has lost all five meetings against the Bruins this season, including a 2-0 loss on Tuesday. Dustin Tokarski struggled in finishing with 33 saves.
The Bruins have won 10 straight meetings overall against the Sabres since a 4-2 loss on Dec. 16, 2018.
The teams conclude a three-game series in Buffalo on Friday night.
The Sabres were undone by a sputtering power play, which failed to convert five opportunities, after going 0 of 6 on Tuesday. Buffalo has converted just five of 68 power-play opportunities over its past 30 games.
”It’s not good enough obviously,” forward Jeff Skinner said. ”Obviously they have a good penalty kill and they’re gonna make it hard on you. But those are moments in the game where you can kind of turn the tide, gain some momentum and capitalize and get a get a goal. We’re not doing that.”
Grzelcyk’s goal came after Boston killed off two consecutive penalties, and some 7 1/2 minutes after Ruotsalainen tied the game at 1 by tipping in Anders Bjork’s pass into the open left side.
Pastrnak won a face off to the left of the Sabres net and the Bruins worked the puck to Grzelcyk at the right point, where his snap shot deflected off the stick of Buffalo’s Tobias Rieder, and knuckled in under Tokarski’s glove.
Swayman improved to 5-1 while filling in for backup Jaroslav Halak, who has missed 11 games while being in the NHL’s COVID-19 protocol.
The Bruins kept most of Buffalo’s shots to the outside. Boston also features the NHL’s top-ranked penalty-killing unit, which has allowed just two power-play goals in opponents’ past 28 chances over a six-game stretch.
”It’s fun to see your team grind and working hard for you. That’s the leadership in the locker room,” Swayman said.
The Bruins opened the scoring on Marchand’s goal at the 12:36 mark of an opening period in which they outshot Buffalo 14-7.
Pastrnak and Ritchie put the game away by scoring 66 seconds apart through the first six minutes of the third, with Krejci scoring with 1:58 remaining.
Cassidy revealed a number of Boston players received their vaccines immediately following their win at Buffalo on Tuesday. Cassidy wouldn’t say how many were vaccinated, while noting that was the reason he held an optional skate on Wednesday to give players a chance to rest.
Sabres interim coach Don Granato noted how a lineup made up of mostly developing youngsters has made it easier to get across his message with the team out of playoff contention.
”If we had an older team and we were where we are in the standings, we would be doomed,” said Granato, who is 6-10-3 since Ralph Krueger was fired on March 17. ”They’re kind of an open canvass in that regard. And as long as we keep them believing that there’s more to go after, we’re good. And that’s easy to show what the next challenge is for them.”
Bruins: D Kevan Miller is set to return on Friday after missing his fifth consecutive game with an undisclosed injury. … Cassidy said RW Ondrej Kase is progressing, but there remains no timetable for his return. He’s been out since sustaining an upper body injury two games into the season.
Sabres: D Will Borgen returned after missing 32 games with a broken forearm. … G Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is scheduled to make his NHL debut Friday.
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