Commentary

Another flat effort leaves Bruins in dust

Defensive mistakes, lack of offense make all the difference in loss to Sabres

Updated: January 21, 2011, 1:13 AM ET
By Brendan Hall | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- First, Dennis Seidenberg tried to kick-stop an airborne breakout pass from deep in the Buffalo Sabres zone, only to watch it slide along the left boards past the blue line. After that failed, the Boston Bruins defenseman kicked it back up the wall to teammate Nathan Horton, who promptly got pick-pocketed by Tyler Ennis and left Cody McCormick wide open in the high slot for the Sabres' first goal Thursday night to even the score at 1-1.

"I don't know exactly what happened on the boards," Seidenberg said. "I just saw McCormick coming out ... coming off the boards with the puck. He shot and he got the rebound right off the post, right back on his skate and put it more or less in the empty net."

[+] EnlargeThomas Vanek and Mike Weber
Steve Babineau/NHLI/Getty ImagesThe Sabres took only 33 shots on goals compared to the Bruins' 40 but came out on top Thursday.

Shift after shift, this was how the night went for the Bruins, who saw their five-game win streak snap with a flat effort in a 4-2 loss to the Sabres at TD Garden. Every time the Bruins tried to right a wrong, they fumbled.

Seidenberg started the game well in front of Tuukka Rask (29 saves), cutting off cross-ice passes and pushing Buffalo players out of the dirty areas, and beating Miller over his right shoulder -- thanks to a great Horton screen -- for the game's first goal at 11:01 of the first period.

And there were other bright spots, highlighted by the goal created by the fourth line that gave the Bruins their last lead, 2-1 in the second stanza. After Shawn Thornton, who had a team-high four hits, won a puck in the corner, he kicked out to Blake Wheeler at the top of the left circle. Wheeler then redirected it out to Gregory Campbell, as he fell, and the energy-line center beat Ryan Miller from the high slot with a snap shot for his seventh goal of the season.

"He was sort of in an awkward position, and he did a great job handling it," Wheeler said of Campbell's goal.

But that good fortune was overshadowed by too much sloppy play in front of Rask, and usually consistent defensemen such as Seidenberg happened to be in the thick of it.

Seidenberg coughed up the Sabres' third goal, a power-play strike from Nathan Gerbe early in the third period. From his own zone, the defenseman tried to kick a pass up the left boards to Horton, only to have it blocked by Jochen Hecht, kicked around to the left point by Andrej Sekera and -- after Rask appeared to commit to Tyler Myers as he wound up at the right circle -- given to an uncovered Gerbe at the left circle for an easy wrister.

"It's what we didn't do; I mean, we just didn't take care of the puck good enough to win that third period," Seidenberg said after the loss. "Usually, we put the pucks in good areas, and we just gave them too many turnovers and too many odd-man rushes, and they just used those chances to score."

This wasn't Rask's best game, but he didn't get much help on his own end either, leaving players like Wheeler and alternate captain Mark Recchi to speak of the need for more consistency and giving Rask better games to work with.

Bruins coach Claude Julien, meanwhile, was left chalking it up to a poor effort overall.

"From start to finish, I don't think there's much to say here except that we were totally flat tonight, from the first player to the last," Julien said. "So it's not about pointing to one or pointing to the other, we came out flat tonight and never seemed to find our game.

"Even in the third period, you are coming in there tied and you got an opportunity, 20 minutes again, to seal your fate, and it just wasn't happening again."

Julien also conceded that Horton's confidence "is probably at the lowest it's ever been because he understands that he needs to score and it's not happening." Horton, equally to blame on those last three gaffes that led to goals, has now gone without a goal since Jan. 3 and has just two points in his past seven games.

"I think he's putting a lot of pressure on himself, which may not be helping him right now," Julien said. "And I think everybody on this team, players and coaching staff, are really hoping to see him score a few goals so that he can get himself going because I think that's what's happening right now."

Just another one of those nights.

Brendan Hall is an editor and writer for ESPN Boston High School.

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