BOSTON — Zdeno Chara played well and delivered checks hours after Montreal police began an investigation of his hit two days earlier that left an opponent with a serious concussion and fractured vertebra.
Their captain’s performance wasn’t enough for the Boston Bruins to hold on to two leads Thursday night.
Brad Boyes scored at 3:44 of overtime and the Buffalo Sabres beat the Bruins 4-3. What was Boyes thinking with an open net on his side at the right corner of the crease?
“I think ‘Don’t miss it,'” he said. “I think, get my whole body in the way if it bounces, tough ice out there at the end. If it bounces I have to make sure that, whatever happens, it’s not going wide.”
For Chara, the challenge was to play his usual aggressive style. And he did that with an early hit on Jason Pominville that sparked chants of “Cha-ra! Cha-ra!” from the crowd.
“It’s something I very much appreciate,” Chara said. “I don’t see any reason to change my game or my style of play. I’m going to continue to play physical and play hard.”
Chara received a major penalty for interference and a game misconduct Tuesday night after slamming Max Pacioretty of the Canadiens into a padded stanchion supporting a glass partition. The NHL announced Wednesday that Chara wouldn’t be suspended and Pacioretty was released from the hospital Thursday.
“Obviously, his state of mind is not at best, which is normal,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said about Chara. “You understand what’s going on. It’s not easy but, like I said, I thought he handled himself well tonight.”
The victory put the Sabres in a seventh-place tie with the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference with 74 points and two games in hand. But the Rangers have two more wins.
“When you score in overtime this time of year it’s exciting,” Boyes said. “It’s about getting points now. It doesn’t matter who we play.”
His winning goal was set up by Nathan Gerbe, whose shot from 30 feet was stopped by goalie Tim Thomas, who seemed to lose sight of the puck after the save. Gerbe retrieved it just to the right of Thomas and passed across the crease to an unguarded Boyes, who tapped in his 15th goal of the season.
“I just tried to get it on net as quick as possible and get the rebound,” Gerbe said. “I saw Thomas fumbled it there a little bit.”
Thomas stopped 41 shots but couldn’t stop Boyes after Gerbe’s twisting shot.
“It was a knuckler,” Thomas said. “You can’t really control the rebound on that. … You see strange shots when you give up (45) shots.”
Boston squandered leads of 2-0 in the second period and 3-2 in the third.
The Bruins’ Nathan Horton scored midway through the first before Mark Recchi increased the lead 11 minutes into the second. The Sabres tied it in the last 9 minutes of that period on goals by Tyler Ennis and Thomas Vanek.
Boston went ahead again on Gregory Campbell’s goal at 2:18 of the third, but Tim Connolly tied it less than 3 minutes later.
The Bruins lost their third straight game after winning seven in a row.
The Sabres tied it 3-3 at 5:05 of the third period on Connolly’s ninth goal on a two-man advantage. He scored on a scramble just in front of Thomas with two Bruins on the ice in front of the goalie.
That erased a lead the Bruins had taken less than 3 minutes earlier. Chara fired the puck from about 50 feet. It hit two players then caromed to Campbell, who got his 10th goal.
Trailing 2-0 midway through the second period, the Sabres scored twice in just over 7 minutes to tie it at 2 going into the third.
Just 27 seconds after Recchi scored his 12th goal, Ennis got his 15th when he knocked the puck off Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid in the crease and it slipped past Thomas at 11:53 of the period.
Vanek tied it for the Sabres with his 24th goal at 18:56, breaking their 0-for-18 scoreless streak on the power play. Vanek shot the puck from a few feet away from Thomas. The goalie swiped at it with his left glove and it dropped behind him just in front of the goal line before it trickled in.
“Physically, we know they are good,” Gerbe said. “They are a top team and they have a lot of good players so we had to play them tough.”
NOTES: Chara was penalized for boarding in the second period, although Steve Montador slid about 10 feet after being knocked down and before hitting the boards. “The referee made the call. I have to respect that,” Chara said. … Tyler Seguin, the second overall pick in last year’s draft, was a healthy scratch for Boston for the second time in four games. … Former Bruin Boyes got his 32nd assist on Connolly’s goal.
Flyers 3, Leafs 2
TORONTO — Brian Boucher made 27 saves and Claude Giroux’s second-period goal stood up as the winner in the Philadelphia Flyers’ 3-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.
Andrej Meszaros and Darroll Powe also scored for Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia, playing without top defenseman Chris Pronger because of an undisclosed upper-body injury.
Mikhail Grabovski and Joffrey Lupul scored for Toronto. The Maple Leafs have lost three straight, hurting their bid to climb into playoff position.
At a time when questionable hits have dominated discussion around the NHL, referees Mike Leggo and Brian Pochmara came down hard on Toronto defenseman Mike Komisarek. Less than 4 minutes into the game, he was given a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct for shoving Daniel Carcillo into the boards from behind.
Meszaros opened the scoring on the ensuing power play, blasting home his sixth of the season at 4:55.
Toronto was fortunate to emerge otherwise unscathed from that situation, with goalie James Reimer making a great pad stop on Jeff Carter while the Flyers built an 8-1 shots advantage.
Powe got his sixth of the season at 9:36 of the second period after squirting a low shot from an awkward angle along the goal line between Reimer’s legs.
Grabovski gave Toronto a brief shot of life with the most painful of his 26 goals this season. He was standing at the side of the goal when Dion Phaneuf’s point shot ricocheted off his visor and past Brian Boucher at 11:13. It was Toronto’s first power-play goal in six games.
Toronto pushed hard for the tying goal immediately after that — Boucher robbed Colby Armstrong with his glove — until Giroux put the Flyers ahead 3-1 with 5:20 left in the period. He went to the center of the ice just as the puck arrived on his stick and beat Reimer.
Energy line player Mike Brown was an unlikely catalyst for Toronto in the third period, turning defenseman Sean O’Donnell inside-out before setting up Lupul’s goal at 7:56.
NOTES: Since dealing Kris Versteeg to the Flyers on Feb. 14, Toronto has gone 6-2-4. … Jay Rosehill and Jonas Gustavsson were healthy scratches for Toronto. Andreas Nodl and Nikolay Zherdev sat out for the Flyers.