The NHL-leading Boston Bruins look for one more win before closing the curtain on the calendar year when they host the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday afternoon.
Boston (28-4-3) is 7-0-2 in its last nine games, and will finish the 2022 portion of its schedule without suffering consecutive losses after bouncing back from Tuesday’s shootout setback in Ottawa to defeat New Jersey 3-1 the next night.
One team’s streak could be spoiled, as Buffalo is in the midst of its own five-game winning streak.
Wednesday night was not Boston’s best, but the Bruins found a way.
Goaltender Linus Ullmark needed to make 16 of his 30 saves in the first period, and captain Patrice Bergeron scored the game-winning goal with 4:09 remaining.
“(Ullmark) was spectacular. We weren’t,” coach Jim Montgomery said after Boston’s second win at New Jersey in less than a week. “To get three of four points on this trip right after Christmas, it speaks volumes about the character of the team.”
Ullmark improved to 20-1-1, matching Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy (2020-21) and Ottawa’s Andrew Hammond (2014-15) for the second-fewest games to 20 wins in a season.
His 39 wins in 2022 tied Tuukka Rask for the most ever by a Bruins goalie in a calendar year.
Bergeron has been on a recent run, scoring four goals in his last five games. His 77 career game-winning tallies are tied for second-most in team history.
“There’s not enough words to describe him,” Montgomery said. “Not everyone goes to those hard areas. … That’s why he scored, that’s why he has 1,000 points, and that’s why he’s our leader.”
Saturday marks the Bruins’ final game before moving outside for Monday’s NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park, the second-ever installment hosted at the iconic Boston ballpark.
“Once you take care of the process, the results fall in line,” Bergeron said. “For me, it’s all about the process and details. That’s who we are. … We (have) to concentrate and put the emphasis on details.”
Bruins forward Tomas Nosek skated before Friday’s practice but he will miss his second straight game for maintenance.
The Sabres are in the midst of their longest win streak since a 10-game stretch in November 2018, though Saturday will mark just their second outing after a 10-day break due to the recent blizzard that hit Western New York.
Captain Kyle Okposo recorded a hat trick and Casey Mittelstadt added two goals to lead Buffalo to Thursday’s 6-3 win over Detroit in front of a sellout crowd.
“What the community is going through, has just gone through in the last nine days that we’ve been off, is significant,” Sabres coach Don Granato said. “To have a guy like ‘Okie’ that loves (and lives full-time in) this community score three I felt was appropriate.”
Okposo is the third-ever Sabre to log a hat trick at age 34 or older and the first since Hall of Famer Gilbert Perreault in 1985-86.
The Sabres benefited from the return of defensemen Owen Power, who had two assists, and Jacob Bryson. Each had missed three games with a lower-body injury.
Buffalo scored four second-period goals to run away to its latest victory, and now a back-to-back and three-in-four stretch awaits.
“It took a bit to hit a rhythm (on Thursday), so the way they stayed with it was very nice to see,” Granato said.
–Field Level Media