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Rapid Reaction: Bruins 4, Sabres 1

12/21/2013

BOSTON -- The Bruins salvaged the second leg of a home-and-home set with the Buffalo Sabres, scoring a 4-1 victory Saturday in their last game at TD Garden before the Christmas break.

Boston (24-10-2) claimed the first lead of the game, working some precision passing down low on Reilly Smith's power-play tally at 9 minutes, 39 seconds of the first. Ryan Spooner set up the goal from the half-wing boards, sliding the puck down to Carl Soderberg below the right-wing circle. Soderberg slid across toward the goal and found Smith camped on the far post with the tape-to-tape pass.

However, the Bruins were unable to maintain the lead headed into the first intermission, with Zemgus Girgensons finding a small sliver of daylight between Tuukka Rask and the short-side post at 18:54. With Rask cheating off the corner, Girgensons found real estate up top in a space between the goaltender's stick and the near post.

Girgensons' goal snapped a streak of 78 minutes, 54 seconds of scoreless play with Rask (34 saves Saturday) in net, including his 19th career shutout against Calgary on Tuesday.

Boston regained the advantage early in the second, with Jarome Iginla creating off a rush up the sheet before finding David Krejci in the slot for his seventh goal of the season at 1:47.

The Bruins added a pair of insurance markers in the third, when Milan Lucic buried a wrister from the slot for his 12th of the season at 5:18 before Smith scored his second of the game with an empty-netter.

Turning point: After Boston claimed a 2-1 lead, the Sabres (9-24-3) set up shop in the Bruins' end for a good portion of the second, thanks to a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity. With Patrice Bergeron already off for a cross-checking infraction, Gregory Campbell was given a double minor for high sticking at 9:40.

The Bruins held through 1:49 of 5-on-3 play and the balance of the four-minute penalty to Campbell.

A spell of that 5-on-3 time featured an interesting look to the Boston's penalty-kill unit, as head coach Claude Julien employed three defensemen at once. Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk patrolled in front of the cage, while Torey Krug took the forward's position at the point of the triangle.

The Bruins also killed an abridged 5-on-3 man-advantage in the third.

Saturday night's all right for fighting: Bergeron picked up his first career regular-season fighting major penalty, dropping the gloves with Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers at the 14:07 mark of the second.

Despite Myers' considerable advantage in reach, the B's alternate captain held his own, landing a couple of jabs before the combatants hit the deck.

Although it was Bergeron's first bout in the first 82 of the season, he does have two playoff fights to his card, battling Montreal's Josh Gorges in 2009 and Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin during last year's Eastern Conference finals.

The walking wounded: The Bruins' injury situation appeared to have gone from bad to worse as Brad Marchand was hobbled after going in awkwardly on a check on Sabres defenseman Christian Ehrhoff in the corner. Marchand had difficulty reaching the Boston bench on the opposing side as his linemates went off on a change.

After being helped onto the bench by teammates and medical staff, Marchand was escorted to the dressing room. Marchand was back on the ice several minutes later to contribute to the Bruins' first penalty kill of the evening.

Defenseman Adam McQuaid was again held out of the lineup with a lower-body injury.

Meanwhile, Dougie Hamilton returned to the ice for the first time since dealing with his own lower-body injury, suffered earlier this month in Toronto, participating in the morning skate. Winger Daniel Paille was also among the group of Bruins who didn't play but skated Saturday morning.

Happy Festivus: Rene Rancourt serenaded and led the Garden faithful in a holiday tune singalong during the second intermission.