Sabers stun Bruins in OT on Tuch goal for sixth straight win

BOSTON – In 2022, right from start to finish, Tage Thompson became a breakout star for the Buffalo Sabers and Alex Tuch became a locker-room conscience. As the year closed, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen finally emerged as the goaltending prospect they thought he would be when they drafted him in 2017.

Those points coalesced Saturday in TD Garden as the Sabers went toe-to-toe against the NHL’s best team.

Dylan Cozens scored a tying goal with 1:37 left and Luukkonen on the bench for an extra attacker. Then Cozens made a strip and pass to create the game-winner as Tuch tallied his second goal and fourth point with 1:07 left in overtime. It gave the Sabers a sensational 4-3 victory that extended their winning streak to six straight.

Brad Marchand’s breakaway goal with 7:35 snapped a 2-2 tie and gave Boston a 3-2 lead but the Sabers were undaunted, killing a two-man advantage and finally getting the game even.

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The atmosphere in the building was intense as the Bruins came into the game without a regulation home loss (18-0-2) as part of a run that saw them set the NHL record from the start of a season with 14 straight home wins. The Sabers became the first Eastern Conference team to get a point in Boston this season.

The Sabers improved to 18-14-2 overall, including 11-3-2 in their last 16 games and 8-1-1 in their last 10. The Bruins are 28-4-4.

Buffalo came into the game 1-14-3 against Boston in its last 18 meetings and 0-7-2 in the last nine here dating to 2016.

Buffalo had a 2-1 lead through 40 minutes before Patrice Bergeron scored on a power play at 5:16 of the third, a goal that came 27 seconds after Kyle Okposo took a boarding penalty.

Marchand put Boston ahead at 12:25, taking a David Pastrnak pass and beating Luukkonen between the legs for his 10th goal of the season.

Luukkonen kept the Bruins at bay all afternoon as Boston had a 39-24 advantage in shots on goal through regulation. Perhaps his best work came with two stops on Pastrnak as Boston failed to score on a 5-on-3 advantage late in the third period that lasted for 1:57.

Boston scored first on Pastrnak’s one-timer at 13:09 of the first period and was poised to take control of the game but Luukkonen made a massive stop with his right pad on Marchand on a 2-on-1 break with 4:20 left. in the frame. It was 33 seconds later when Thompson stickhandled down low to tuck the puck past Jeremy Swayman off a Jeff Skinner feed to get Buffalo even.

It was Thompson’s 27th goal of the season, moving him alone into second place in the NHL behind Edmonton’s Connor McDavid (32). It was also his 53rd goal and 99th point in 84 games in the 2022 calendar year.

Thompson was one of seven NHL players to score 50-plus regular-season goals in 2022 (joining Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, David Pastrnak, Jason Robertson, Kirill Kaprizov and Leon Draisaitl). That’s the most within a year this millennium.

Matthews (57), Robertson (55) and Thompson make this the first calendar year in NHL history with three US-born players to have each reached the mark. There had not even been two since 1997 (John LeClair 56 and Keith Tkachuk 55).

Thompson fell one point shy of becoming the sixth Sabers player to record 100-plus points in a single calendar year and the first since Alexander Mogilny in 1993 (59-50 – 109 in 75 GP).

Here are some more observations on the game:

On Jan. 1, 2022, the Sabers suffered a 4-3 overtime loss here in a game that saw Tuch score his first goal for the Blue and Gold while playing in his third game.

On the final day of the year, Tuch scored the first of his two goals by beating Swayman on a breakaway at 2:03 of the second period to give the Sabers a 2-1 lead. It came after a perfect outlet pass from Ilya Lyubushkin. Then, of course, came the OT winner.

Tuch played 82 games for Buffalo in 2022 – exactly the equivalent of a full season – and finished with 29 goals, 47 assists and 76 points.

You don’t have to worry about guys on this team backing away from Milan Lucic anymore. Rasmus Dahlin moved right at Boston’s Trent Frederic early in the game after the Bruins forward bowled over Luukkonen on a breakaway, getting a cross-checking penalty but sending a message.

In the second period, Peyton Krebs answered for a hard hit along the boards when challenged by Boston defenseman Connor Clifton and the pair traded blows in Krebs’ first NHL bout.

Krebs was bloodied by a couple of hard lefts but was clapping his hands and exhorting his teammates when he went to the locker room for repairs and returned to the game a few minutes later.

• Buffalo entered the game 13-0-1 when leading after two periods. Boston came in 2-3-2 when trailing after two (just seven times in 36 games).

• Skinner’s assist on Thompson’s goal extended his point streak to 10 games (8-9-17).

• It was status quo with the Buffalo lineup as Rasmus Asplund, Vinnie Hinostroza and Casey Fitzgerald were the scratches.

• The NHL announced Saturday that it is matching the Sabers Foundation’s $50,000 donation toward blizzard response efforts, which sent $10,000 to five organizations providing critical services.

The Sabers headed to Ottawa right after the game and will start the 2023 portion of their schedule against the Senators Sunday night at 7 in the Canadian Tire Centre. With Luukkonen starting Saturday, veteran Craig Anderson is likely to get the call in goal. It will be his first start in Ottawa since he left the Senators following the 2019-20 season.

Anderson relieved an injured Eric Comrie in Buffalo’s 4-1 loss at Ottawa on Nov. 16 after receiving a tribute video from the Sens earlier in the contest. Sunday’s game will be the 697th of his career, three shy of becoming the 31st goalie in NHL history to reach 700. Anderson is third among active goalies behind Minnesota’s Marc-Andre Fleury (961) and Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick (734).

The Bruins, meanwhile, will join the Pittsburgh Penguins in having outdoor practices Sunday in Fenway Park. The teams meet there Monday at 2 in the annual NHL Winter Classic.

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