BUFFALO, N.Y. — Milan Lucic and the rest of the Boston Bruins know how to respond when adversity strikes.
Lucic scored two goals — one coming after he received five stitches due to a puck to the face — and contributed an assist to help lead the Bruins to a 5-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night.
The gritty Bruins forward heard cheers from the partisan Buffalo crowd after he was struck in the face late in the first period. He answered by scoring his second goal of the evening 40 seconds into the second period.
“It doesn’t make you happy, right?” Lucic said of the cheers following his injury. “You have the power as a player to do whatever you can on the ice to kind of give it back to them. I guess you can say it’s a fun part of being a fan, and it’s also a fun part of being an athlete.”
Torey Krug also scored twice for the Bruins, who improved to 6-2-0 and responded accordingly after they saw another of their top players leave the game due to a head injury.
The game took an ugly turn six minutes into the third when Bruins winger Loui Eriksson was injured after receiving a hit to the head from Buffalo enforcer John Scott. Eriksson was helped to the Boston locker room following the hit and did not return. Scott received a match penalty.
Defenseman Adam McQuaid fought Scott following the hit, and Krug scored his second goal of the period minutes later to give Boston a 5-2 cushion.
“We needed to score and we did, so that was a big goal for us, and we kept playing our game right ’til the end,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
Julien had no update regarding Eriksson after the game, saying only that Eriksson was being observed by trainers.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing that a key player gets hurt, and I know that there’s history here, but it’s a guy (Scott) who plays about two to three minutes a game and targets your best player, I guess, one of your best players, that kind of thing,” Julien said. “The referees called it the way I guess everybody saw it.
“So it’s unfortunate, but now the guy who did it did his job tonight. He’s out there for two reasons, and that’s either to fight or hurt, so he did his job tonight.”
The Bruins coach said his team would use the hit as motivation, just as the Sabres did two years ago after a questionable hit from the Bruins. In November 2011, Lucic injured Ryan Miller when he hit the goalie outside of the crease.
“It is what it is, and it’s unfortunate,” Julien said.
Sabres coach Ron Rolston had no comment regarding the hit.
Lucic opened the scoring 10:59 into the first after a Jerome Iginla shot deflected off his skate. He had more of a hand in his second goal when Iginla found Lucic streaking toward the Buffalo net and the two connected on a tap-in to put Boston up 2-0.
Cody Hodgson and Nikita Zadorov scored in the second period for the Sabres (1-9-1), who reduced Boston’s lead to 3-2 heading into the third.
Hodgson opened the scoring for Buffalo with a rare Sabres power-play goal. Hodgson redirected a Thomas Vanek pass for his third of the season. Heading into the game, Buffalo ranked 29th in the NHL with the man advantage.
Zadorov cut Boston’s lead to one with just under five minutes left in the second on his first NHL goal. The impressive teenager cut through the right circle, skated around Boston defenseman Carl Soderberg and put a nifty backhand past Boston goalie Chad Johnson. The goal came in just his second NHL game.
Johnson made 14 saves for the win. Miller finished with 29 saves.
“We were starting to come around,” Miller said. “We got some life off those goals in the second period. For the most part, we cleaned some stuff up. Our transition to defense cost us two, but other than that, we’re in a hockey game.”
Krug gave the Bruins some breathing room 4:17 into the third period when he outmuscled Sabres forward Drew Stafford and slid the puck between Miller’s legs. The goal gave Boston a 4-2 lead, and Krug increased the advantage to 5-2 five minutes later on a snap shot following Eriksson’s injury.
Dougie Hamilton also scored for the Bruins.
NOTES: The Bruins’ scratches were RW Jordan Caron and D Matt Bartkowski. … The Sabres scratched D Jamie McBain, RW Patrick Kaleta (suspension) and D Rasmus Ristolainen. … Buffalo C Cody McCormick missed the game after being placed on injured reserve Tuesday due to a lower-body ailment. … Bruins LW Daniel Paille was with the Sabres organization from 2002-09. He was selected in the first round (20th overall) by the Sabres in 2002. … The Bruins began their first of 17 sets of back-to-back games this season. They will return to Boston to play the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. … The Sabres play the Panthers in Florida on Friday.