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Zdeno Chara and the Boston Bruins weren't going to let another game get away because of a third-period letdown.
After Boston blew leads in the final 20 minutes in its past two losses, Chara sparked a three-goal, third-period rally in a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday night.
"We knew tonight's game was going to be a big game for us. We wanted to finish strong," said Chara, who snapped an 18-game goal drought. "And that's what we did. We were able to score goals, maintain the same play, be aggressive on pucks, kept up the high pace. So that's pretty much why we got rewarded, and we got two points."
Set up at the left point, Chara scored the go-ahead goal 29 seconds into the final frame by floating in a shot through a crowd and just inside the far post. Ryan Spooner scored an insurance goal with 9:07 left, and then Brett Connolly sealed the win with an empty-net goal.
The Bruins were coming off a 3-2 loss at Philadelphia on Wednesday and a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Monday. They closed a five-game trip by snapping a 0-2-1 skid and improved to 2-4-1 in their past seven.
"We played on our toes in that third period and we really managed the puck well enough to not give them much," coach Claude Julien said. "That's probably the difference here between tonight and those last two games."
Spooner added two assists and linemate Matt Belesky had a goal and an assist in a game Boston overcame a 1-0 deficit.
Backup Jonas Gustavsson stopped 33 shots, including the final 24 he faced after giving up a goal to fourth-line center David Legwand.
The Sabres ended a two-game winning streak and are 0-5-1 in their past six home games. That matches Buffalo's worst home skid since losing six straight from Dec. 31-Feb. 5.
Buffalo's power play came up empty during a momentum-turning stretch early in the second period. The Sabres failed to score on three consecutive opportunities over a 7-minute stretch. The Sabres even failed to capitalize during a 20-second stretch during which two Bruins were forced to defend after their sticks broke.
"That's what makes or breaks games," Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. "Unfortunately, when you don't get a goal or get very good momentum off it, it's going to hurt you. And that's what happened."
Gionta had the best chance during the string of power-play chances by redirecting Matt Moulson's pass into the slot. Gustavsson, however, was prepared by tracking the play and moving to his left to make the stop.
Sabres goalie Robin Lehner made 27 saves in his first appearance since spraining his right ankle midway through the second period of Buffalo's season-opening 3-1 loss to Ottawa.
"It's tough to lose, but I think there were a lot of positives in the game, too, for me personally," Lehner said. "I felt like I was pretty calm and controlled there."
Lehner could only be faulted on Spooner's goal midway through the third period. Spooner's shot from the right boards banked in off the side of Lehner's stick.
It was Lehner's first complete game since playing for Ottawa last season, when he stopped 25 shots in a 7-2 win over Edmonton on Feb. 14. Lehner sustained a concussion in his next game and missed the remainder of the season. The Sabres then gave up a first-round draft pick to acquire Lehner in a trade in late June.
Notes: The Bruins return home to face Toronto on Saturday. ... Bruins RW David Pastrnak took part in the morning skate but missed his second consecutive game with an upper-body injury. ... Sabres C Zemgus Girgensons did not return after sustaining an upper-body injury midway through the first period. Coach Dan Bylsma said he's awaiting further evaluation, but ruled Girgensons out from playing against Washington on Saturday. ... Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan and his newly hired assistant head coach/twin brother Rob were in attendance.
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