The Buffalo Sabres did not play an ugly final 40 minutes and there was not an embarrassing collapse. However, they saw another opportunity to gain ground in the Atlantic Division slip away.
After controlling play for much of the first 50 minutes, the Sabres allowed two unanswered goals, capped by Sean Kuraly’s in overtime, for a 3-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in KeyBank Center on Saturday night.
The defeat resulted in a three-point swing in the standings. Rather than having a five-point lead over the Bruins, the Sabres are now only two points ahead for third place. Johan Larsson scored a shorthanded goal in the second period and Carter Hutton made 39 saves.
Marco Scandella also scored for the Sabres, who are 21-12-6 and played their 14th overtime game of the season. Noel Acciari and Jake DeBrusk scored for the Bruins.
Opening salvo: Jeff Skinner collected a backhanded outlet pass from Sam Reinhart, skated around Zdeno Chara and got off a backhanded shot that Tuukka Rask stopped with a pad save. But Scandella was there to hammer home the rebound for a 1-0 lead at 4:40 into the first.
Season of Sam: With the secondary assist on Scandella’s goal, Reinhart has already matched his career high with 30 assists. Reinhart has 35 points in his past 31 games, including 27 assists.
Bruins answer: A series of ugly plays in the Sabres’ defensive zone finally backfired when Skinner lost track of the puck behind Hutton, and it took an unlucky bounce to the front of the net, where Acciari shot the puck off Rasmus Ristolainen to tie the score 9:30 into the first.
Fine first: The Sabres had an ugly first period, despite being tied 1-1 at intermission. They were outshot 14-7 and shot attempts were 27-17 in favor of Boston. But Hutton was exceptional, beginning with his save on Patrice Bergeron after Vladimir Sobotka committed a turnover in defensive zone. Hutton also stopped Chris Wagner during a 3-on-2 odd-man rush.
Go-ahead goal: Larsson scored for the second time in four games when he collected a 2-on-1 pass from Evan Rodrigues and beat Rask with a high shot for a 2-1 lead 5:43 into the second period. It was the Sabres’ first shorthanded goal of the season.
Shorthanded: By killing three of four penalties, the Sabres’ penalty kill is 30-for-32 over its last 11 games.
Power-play woes: The Sabres went 0 for 3 on the power play and are now 2 for 17 in their last six games. Their second opportunity was cut short after only nine seconds when Jack Eichel was called for a four-minute double minor for high-sticking Chara.
Shake it off: Sabres defenseman Jake McCabe left for the locker room briefly after blocking a Bergeron slap shot but returned to finish with eight first-period shifts. Reinhart also left after being tripped by Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson but returned a few minutes later.
Injury updates: Linus Ullmark was out with an illness, which forced the Sabres to recall goalie Scott Wedgewood from Rochester to backup Hutton. Additionally, Housley announced Saturday morning that winger Zemgus Girgensons, who missed practiced Friday, is out week-to-week with an upper-body injury.
With Wedgewood promoted, Rochester recalled Jonas Johansson from Cincinnati. Johansson, a third-round draft pick in 2014, has a .907 save percentage in 17 games with the Cyclones.
Meanwhile, the Bruins were without winger Brad Marchand (upper body), defenseman Charlie McAvoy (lower body) and winger David Backes (suspension).
Lineup changes: Defensemen Lawrence Pilut and Matt Hunwick were healthy scratches. Nathan Beaulieu, who missed the previous five games with an upper-body injury, replaced Pilut in the lineup. Jason Pominville also returned after missing the previous three games as a result of his collision with Ristolainen on Dec. 18 against Florida.
He’s back: Longtime Sabres broadcaster Rick Jeanneret returned to the booth Saturday. Jeanneret was taken from KeyBank Arena on a stretcher and hospitalized Dec. 22.
Next: The Sabres return to practice Sunday morning in preparation to play the New York Islanders on Monday at 6 p.m.