BOSTON — The Boston Bruins are taking this home ice advantage thing seriously.
“That’s what you try to do every year — you want to make your building a tough one to play in and the crowd’s been great and they’ve helped out a lot so far throughout the year,” left winger Milan Lucic said after his team-high 12th goal helped the Bruins improve to 12-0-2 in their last 14 home games with a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
“On the other hand, I think we’re 9-7 on the road, so if we can clean that part up and get points on the road we can move ahead in the standings — but definitely we want to do whatever we can in our power to make this a tough place to play.”
The Bruins, in first place in the Atlantic Division (second in the Eastern Conference) haven’t lost a home game in regulation since a late fold resulted in a 4-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 26. They won their last seven and are 15-3-2 at home on the season.
“Every season we start by talking about it and how to create that atmosphere here and get the fans in it and be a tough team to play at home,” said goaltender Tuukka Rask, who made 34 saves for the win that raised his career record against Buffalo to just 5-5-1. “You’re always disappointed when you lose a home game and this season we’ve been able to win a lot of games at home and it’s huge going forward.”
Right winger Reilly Smith scored two goals, one into an empty net, and center David Krejci had a goal and an assist to power the Bruins, who killed off 1:49 of a 5-on-3 in the second period and also stalled 31 seconds of another one in the third before the Sabres took a penalty.
The Bruins kept the Sabres from sweeping the home-and-series and also prevented last-place Buffalo from its first three-game winning streak of the season.
Krejci, who has 13 points in the last 11 games, scored his seventh goal and set up Lucic. Smith scored a first-period power goal before hitting the empty net.
Buffalo center Zemgus Girgensons (fourth goal) was the only one to beat Rask.
“I don’t think we were totally good tonight. I thought they played pretty solid,” said Buffalo center Steve Ott, who took a slashing penalty to kill the second 5-on-3. “I didn’t think we did a good job of getting pucks behind them and then creating a fore check.”
Center Patrice Bergeron had just gone off for cross-checking when center Gregory Campbell caught defenseman Jamie McBain with a high stick for a double minor, leaving the Bruins without two key penalty killers. Left winger Ville Leino hit the post close to the end of the advantage but that was it.
Smith converted a Carl Soderberg pass for the game’s first goal, 22 seconds into a power play, the goal ending a run of 14 straight Buffalo kills.
Rask stopped a stuff-in try by left winger Matt Moulson but Girgensons jammed home the rebound to tie the game with 1:06 left in the first period. The Bruins went ahead when right winger Jarome Iginla fed Krejci alone in front, 1:47 into the second period.
In the third, defenseman Zdeno Chara found Krejci who in turn found Lucic alone in the slot. Lucic beat goaltender Jhonas Enroth, who played well but slipped to 0-4-2 lifetime against the Bruins and 1-7-3 on the year.
NOTES: The Bruins were still missing six regulars because of injury and the Shawn Thornton suspension — and LW Brad Marchand was injured twice in the game but came back both times. Thornton, who missed his seventh game, appealed his 15-game sentence to commissioner Gary Bettman in New York Friday and should get a decision early this week. The injured players continue to improve with D Adam McQuaid, who has missed 17 of the last 20 games with a lower body injury, hopeful for Monday at Nashville. … LW Linus Omark, acquired by Buffalo from Edmonton Thursday, debuted on the fourth line and picked up an early penalty that led to Boston’s first goal. He was on the power play in the third period. … The Sabres host the Phoenix Coyotes Monday night. … Boston C Patrice Bergeron fought 6-8 D Tyler Myers in the second period; Bergeron’s first fighting major in 612 regular season games. He’s had two fights in the playoffs.