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Vanek's hat trick leads Sabres past Bruins

The SportsXchange

BOSTON -- Tomas Vanek has no explanation for his career success against the Bruins.

"I think it's just statistics," the Buffalo winger said after his hat trick and two assists led the Sabres to a come-from-behind 7-4 victory over Boston Thursday night, ending Buffalo's four-game losing streak. "There's nothing else to it.

"With Boston, you know, it's a tough team, you gotta be ready. Besides that, I don't have another answer for you."

Vanek, who scored once in each period in his eighth career hat trick, has 54 points in 46 career games against the Bruins. Thursday's heroics continued a fine start that has seen him compile 15 points in six games, including a pair of five-point games.

While Vanek and linemates Jason Pominville (12 points in seven games) and Cody Hodgson handled the finesse part of the game with three points apiece, tough guy John Scott scored an early TKO of Boston's Shawn Thornton, knocking Thornton from the game and showing the toughness that was the reason the Sabres brought him to Buffalo. He is listed at 6-8, 270 pounds, while Thornton, one of the toughest around, goes 6-2, 217.

This was no contest.

"Obviously Johnnie knows his job and he did it well on that one," said Vanek, who helped his team come back from 3-1 and 4-3 deficits; the Bruins losing for the first time in 44 games they'd led by two goals.

Added coach Lindy Ruff: "John has provided us some team toughness. "It's spilled off into some other guys. He did a nice job for us. I thought the rest of the game was just a really hard-fought game."

Scott, who chatted with Thornton during warmups to discuss what was being talked about in the media, was concerned for Thornton when the Bruin didn't return. Thornton apparently suffered a head injury from an overhand right that landed behind the left ear.

"He'll bounce back. He's a tough guy. He'll probably fight me again and he'll probably do a lot better the next time," said Scott.

The Bruins took a 4-3 lead when David Krejci scored at 1:45 of the third period, but defenseman Alexander Sulzer got that right back. Vanek set up Hodgson for the go-ahead goal at 6:54 and then closed out the hat trick late before Pominville hit the empty net.

Tyler Ennis, off a great pass from Vanek, also beat a virtually unaided Tuukka Rask for the Sabres, who got big saves from Ryan Miller all night, in a game Ruff called "fire-wagon hockey."

Rask was left alone far too often, as the Bruins suffered their first regulation loss of the season and also fell to 4-1 at home (5-1-1 overall).

Boston coach Claude Julien called his team "brain dead" defensively after its first stinker of the season.

"We scored four goals. Defensively, I don't think I remember the last time we were this bad," he said. "The breakdowns and the mistakes we made and the opportunities ... when you give Vanek those kind of opportunities he's going to make the most of it.

"I don't think we were extremely good on defense and that's what cost us the game tonight."

Brad Marchand scored twice for the Bruins, who also got a goal from Rich Peverley.

The Bruins lost three forwards during the game. Patrice Bergeron, who had two assists, leaving early in the third period with an apparent right shoulder injury; but he returned. Thornton was lost early and Daniel Paille was cut by a Tyler Myers high stick in the third period and had to go for repairs to a nasty cut near an eye.

The Sabres used a 5-on-3, with Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara taking penalties on the same play, to close a 3-1 deficit to 3-2 as Vanek tipped home a slap pass by Christian Ehrhoff slap past a minute into the power play. The play was reviewed but Vanek clearly tipped the puck with his stick and then between his own legs.

A great shift by the Sabres ended with Vanek making an acrobatic pass to Ennis for his second of the year just 1:33 later.

NOTES: Boston's Tyler Seguin celebrated his 21st birthday and had an assist, but he has just one goal in seven games. ... Left wing Chris Bourque, without a point and a minus-4 in the first six games with his dad's old team, was a scratch as the Bruins inserted the tougher Lane McDermid for his season debut (his sixth NHL game). With Bourque bumped from the third line, Paille slipped in there and McDermid took Paille's fourth-line spot, but all that changed when Thornton left early; McDermid logging just 4:12 of ice time. ... Both teams carried young players past the six-game deadline instead of returning them to juniors. Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton and Buffalo center Mikhail Grigorenko are official NHLers after Thursday night's game, game No. 7 for both teams. Grigorenko set up a Buafflo goal for his first NHL assist. ... Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid returned to the lineup after missing two games due to the death of his grandmother. ... The Sabres were missing right wing Patrick Kaleta, who suffered a neck injury (on a hit by Toronto's Mike Brown) bad enough to send him to the hospital. He's OK and is day-to-day. ... The Bruins are at Toronto and the Sabres at Montreal Saturday. ... Ruff trails only Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs in tenure with the same team. There have been 170 NHL coaching changes since Ruff was hired to coach the Sabres July 21, 1997. ... Thornton's fighting major was his third in seven games.
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