BUFFALO – After two solid periods, the second game of the Prospects Challenge got away from the Bruins – did it ever — in the last 20 minutes on Saturday night.
The final score was 7-4 for Buffalo, as Boston gave up five power play goals.
But the slick pass from Jakub Forsbacka Karlsson to Anders Bjork, who one-timed the puck into the net for a late goal, gave Bruins fans something to put their arms around when the final horn sounded.
The other Boston goals were scored by Justin Hickman, Sean Kuraly and Ryan Fitzgerald.
Jakob Zboril played very well, bouncing back from a difficult night on Friday. He was a physical presence.
Charlie McAvoy got his first game under his belt. Connor Clifton had another good showing.
In addition to his goal, Hickman was physical and did a nice job protecting the puck in the offensive zone.
Jesse Gabrielle was involved all night, trading jabs — verbal and otherwise — with several Sabres.
“All in all, a lot of good takeaways for our team,” said McAvoy.
Jay Leach’s take on the game
“I really liked our first two periods. The third period got a little wacky and I think we all kind of lost composure. Half the time we didn’t know exactly what was being called and it was tough. We skated and competed and had some chances. I think we had over 20 chances in the first two periods. Just one of those games, I suppose.
“I’m sure, if we were to ask the referees, they’d like to have some calls back.”
Zboril zeroes in
The physical aspect of Zboril’s game was an eye-opener. He made a big hit on Nick Baptiste in the second period and blew up C.J. Smith in the third.
“It looked like he was involved, enjoyed playing. Made some major hits. Made some nice plays, as well. Maybe Charlie (McAvoy) rubbed off on him a little bit, but in saying that, I think he took it upon himself to improve his game. I really thought highly of him in this game tonight,” said Leach.
“That hit in the second period, that was a big-time hit. It probably hurt him and the other guy.”
Zboril was pleased with his performance. “I think I was very much better,” he said.
“I found my legs. The first game, I was not feeling well, I felt really heavy. Today’s game I found my legs again. I could skate and be more physical. I had so much more energy in this game.”
The 20-year-old Czech said that he has always enjoyed the physical side of the game.
“Since I was 10, I started hitting, even when we were young and couldn’t really hit. I was still doing it and getting penalties all the time,” he said with a smile.
Bjork took a couple of high, hard hits, but no damage was done.
“I’m feeling fine. It was a good wakeup call. Keep my head up and do a better job next game. It’s a physical game, a lot more physical than college was. Guys are competing for spots. You’ve got to play smart and just as hard as they do,” he said.
Emil Johansson left the game after being trucked by Hudson Fasching, who received a charging penalty.
An update is expected on Sunday, but Leach said Johansson was up and walking around after the game.
Leach on debut of Bork and McAvoy
“They were fine, in their way. It was an intense game. I think they put a lot of expectations on themselves to perform well. Obviously, Bjorkie had a nice goal. JFK made some nice plays. But at the same time, I think they’d say it’s a good first step and they’ll be looking forward to Monday, for sure.”
Fitz fitting in
Fitzgerald just missed scoring a second goal.
“Ryan Fitz was good. Very serviceable. Plays a lot of positions. He was all over the puck. Gets inside guys. Obviously, he was on the board. He’s effective when he’s on that puck,” said Leach.
Leach on Gabrielle
“He forced that Sean Kuraly goal. It really was all Jesse, getting on his horse and forcing that goalie to make a bad play. He was physical, he was confrontational. He was walking that line. I thought he did a pretty good job.”
DeBrusk was on the receiving end of a flurry of punches from Buffalo’s Arvin Atwal in the third period, and then the two traded insults while in the penalty box.
“He got seven good ones and I didn’t even feel it. That’s what I was telling him in the box,” DeBrusk said.
The Bruins rookie recalled a fight against Gabrielle while in the WHL.
“There’s no video of it, but I got the win, for sure,” DeBrusk said with a laugh.
A grinning Gabrielle remembered it differently, insisting that the victory belonged to him.