BOSTON — Chris Wagner had an extra reason to smile when he scored a goal after his first one was disallowed.
“My grandfather passed away yesterday morning, so this was a special game for me. Maybe he was watching out for me, having the puck follow me around,” the forward said after the Boston Bruins beat the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 on Saturday night.
“He was probably laughing after that first goal was disallowed,” he said.
David Backes also scored and Tuukka Rask stopped 31 shots for the Bruins, who posted their fourth straight victory.
“He was hurting. As a team we feel for him,” linemate Noel Acciari said of Wagner. “That was pretty cool to see that go in.”
Boston won three of four games in the season series against Buffalo.
Rask was looking for his first shutout of the season, but former Bruins’ defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen beat him with a wrist shot on the glove side with 2:38 left in regulation.
The 31-year-old Rask seems as if he’s found his game again after a rough start to this season saw the No. 1 goalie sharing more time with backup Jaroslav Halak.
“He does look comfortable, maybe part of that is he’s getting more reps in the net,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “He’s certainly earning them. … It appears to be his time of year, off he goes and we’re just going to ride it. If that what he brings, awesome.”
Sabres star Jack Eichel missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury. He’s expected to be re-evaluated early next week.
“They play their system very well and it’s a hard building to play in,” Ristolainen said. “We’ve got to understand it’s not going to be easy for 60 minutes for us. We couldn’t create enough today.”
Linus Ullmark made 39 saves for Buffalo, which has won just once in its last five games.
The Sabres pulled Ullmark with just over a minute left for an extra skater, but were unable to get a shot on goal.
Backes played in his first game after serving a three-game suspension for an illegal check to the head on New Jersey Devils forward Blake Coleman.
Wagner had a goal wiped out when Sean Kuraly was called for goaltender interference 20 seconds into the game, but the Boston winger scored just under 10 minutes later, firing a wrist shot past Ullmark’s glove to make it 1-0.
Backes made it 2-0 when he finished off a 2-on-1 break by sending a wrist shot under the cross bar two minutes into the second period.
Boston forward Jake DeBrusk didn’t shy away from a question after the morning skate when asked if it was too early to be called an important game between the clubs, which entered tied for third in the Atlantic Division.
“No, I think anytime you play a division team it’s a big game,” he said. “These games mean a lot towards the end of the year.”
The Bruins then went out and dominated in the second period, holding the Sabres to just two shots on goal in the opening 15-plus minutes. Boston had a 13-10 edge in shots in an entertaining first period filled with high-energy rushes. Rask was solid in the first and third, controlling rebounds and cutting down angles on most of the shots.
Rask made a nice glove stop on Jeff Skinner’s backhander from the edge of the crease late in the second. He also made a right-pad stop on Skinner’s close bid early in the third.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who missed his fifth straight with a lower-body injury, should be returning to practice this week. … Boston entered the game having allowed a league-high nine short-handed goals. Cassidy said he believes short-handed scoring is up overall in the NHL over the last few years because teams adopted the practice of playing four forwards on power plays, but he also admitted “ours are way too high.”
Sabres: Host New Jersey on Tuesday.
Bruins: Host Minnesota on Tuesday.