The Boston Bruins were on the ropes after the first period — again. This time, they fought back for the victory.
Ryan Spooner scored twice in the final four minutes and the Bruins rallied to beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 on Thursday night.
Boston overcame an early 2-0 deficit to win for just the second time in 10 games this season when trailing after the first period. The Bruins have fallen behind by two goals or more in six of their last 12 games. This was the first time they came back and won.
"We showed that we can battle back," goalie Tuukka Rask said after making 31 saves. "We weren't afraid to lose the game. We wanted to win it."
Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci also scored in the opening game of a home-and-home series. Krejci also had an assist to help the Bruins snap a two-game losing streak.
Spooner broke a tie with 3:53 remaining. He took a cross-ice pass from Krejci and beat Robin Lehner with a straightaway slap shot. Spooner scored again into an empty net in the final minute.
Marcus Foligno and Kyle Okposo scored for the Sabres. Matt Moulson assisted on both goals, and Lehner made 34 saves. Buffalo has just one regulation win in its last six games.
Boston went 2-1-1 on a four-game trip and has earned 10 of its 19 regulation victories this season against Atlantic Division opponents, including three wins over Buffalo.
The Sabres were determined to start fast and they did, putting nine shots on goal in the opening five minutes and 16 by the end of the first period to take a two-goal lead.
Jack Eichel's backhand pass from the corner set up Foligno for a one-timer from the slot 1:32 into the game. Okposo scored his team-leading 10th goal on a power play with 1:50 remaining in the first period.
Coach Dan Bylsma said it was the Sabres' "best and most emotional first period of the season."
"You take a two-goal lead any night after a period and you think you're going to get a point," Bylsma said.
The Bruins scored twice in the second to erase the Sabres' early lead.
Brad Marchand fed Bergeron in front of the net to put Boston on the scoreboard 3:50 into the period. Marchand leads the Bruins with 20 assists and 30 points.
Krejci tied it at 2 on a power play with 3:47 left in the second period. Krejci pounced on a loose puck in front of the net and lifted a backhand over a sprawling Lehner. Bylsma challenged that Boston's Tim Schaller interfered with Lehner but the goal was upheld on replay.
"Our leaders did a great job," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "Krejci's been playing well of late and Bergeron-Marchand looked like the Bergeron-Marchand that we know with their chemistry."
Despite trailing by two goals, the Bruins got an emotional lift from the way the first period ended.
Boston forward David Backes left the game late in the first period after getting hit by Buffalo's William Carrie in front of the Sabres bench. Backes laid on the ice with his eyes closed for over a minute before being helped to the dressing room. Carrier was penalized for an illegal check to the head.
As soon as Carrier left the penalty box, Boston's Adam McQuaid skated off the bench and instigated a fight with Carrier, leading to Okposo's goal on Buffalo's third power play of the period. Carrier injured his right hand during the fight and did not return.
"When you have one of your star players get run like that, and some other plays throughout early on, you have to react and stand up for your teammates," McQuaid said. "Even if that aspect of the game is not as prevalent as it used to be, you still need to be there for your teammates and respond when you have to."
McQuaid needed stitches to close a small cut above his lip sustained in the fight.
NOTES: Sabres D Dimitry Kulikov sat out and is day-to-day after aggravating a lower-back injury that kept him out of 14 games earlier this season. D Cody Franson returned to the lineup after missing three games with an undisclosed injury. ... Bruins D John-Michael Lines (concussion) participated in Thursday morning's optional skate but coach Claude Julien said there is still no timetable for Lines return. He has missed 15 games.
The Atlantic Division rivals meet for the final time this season Saturday in Boston.