BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Boston Bruins found a way to hold onto a third-period lead on Friday night.
Captain Zdeno Chara scored the game-winner 29 seconds into the third and the Bruins held on for a 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres. The win came after the Bruins surrendered third-period leads in back-to-back defeats.
"We wanted to finish strong, and especially improve our third period," Chara said. "And that's what we did."
On Monday, the Bruins gave up two third-period goals -- including the game-winner with 1:42 remaining -- on their way to a 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers. On Wednesday, the Bruins took a 2-1 lead into the third before allowing two goals on their way to a 3-2 defeat to the Philadelphia Flyers.
"We played on our toes in that third period and we really managed the puck well enough not to give them much and that's probably the difference here between tonight and those last two games," Bruins head coach Claude Julien said.
Center Ryan Spooner had a goal and two assists for the Bruins (22-16-5), who ended a three-game losing streak. Right winger Brett Connolly and left winger Matt Beleskey also scored.
Goalie Jonas Gustavsson made 33 saves and came up big during the second period. The Bruins took three consecutive penalties in a 4:32 span, but Buffalo was unable to score with the man advantage.
"When you kill those three you get some momentum from that and you feel the energy maybe goes a little bit our way so obviously that was huge," Gustavsson said.
Center David Legwand scored for the Sabres (17-23-4), who ended a two-game winning streak. Before picking up back-to-back road wins, the Sabres had lost six consecutive games.
"We've got to look at ourselves and figure out what it is," Sabres captain Brian Gionta said. "We didn't do enough to win. We were sloppy, especially in that first period. The execution was not there. We weren't making good plays."
Goalie Robin Lehner had 26 saves in his return to the lineup. It was Lehner's first game in net since suffering a high ankle sprain in Buffalo's season opener.
"To be honest, I felt pretty good," Lehner said. "I felt like I was in position."
Legwand opened the scoring with 5:23 remaining in the first period. The fourth-liner scored on a wraparound to end a goal drought that lasted 20 games.
Beleskey evened the score 1:01 into the second period on a rebound. After Lehner stopped a shot from Spooner from close range, Beleskey pounced on the rebound and flung a hard shot into the top of the net for his eighth goal of the season.
Chara gave Boston a 2-1 lead 29 seconds into the third period after a faceoff in the Buffalo end. The Bruins captain lifted a high wrist shot from the blue line through traffic, ending a goal drought that lasted 18 games. It was his sixth goal of the year.
"Sometimes you just put pucks on the net," Chara said. "With so much traffic, so many bodies, you can't really pick corners. ... The opening was there and the puck found a way into the net."
Spooner made it 3-1 with 9:07 remaining. The Bruins center spun along the right wall and fired the puck toward the net, which found its way past Lehner with traffic in front.
"The third one, I think was just a lucky goal," Lehner said. "Two guys in front, battling in front of me and hit something in there and just goes in."
Connolly added an empty-net goal with 1:09 remaining.
Sabres left winger Zemgus Girgensons left the game midway through the first period with an upper-body injury and did not return. Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma said that Girgensons is not expected to play Saturday against Washington.
NOTES: Sabres D Mark Pysyk and D Carlo Colaiacovo were scratched. D Joe Morrow, RW Tyler Randall and RW David Pastrnak were scratched for the Bruins. ... With Sabres G Robin Lehner returning from a high ankle sprain, G Linus Ullmark was sent back to Rochester of the AHL on Thursday. The 22-year-old went 7-10-2 with the Sabres, posting a .915 save percentage and a 2.58 goals-against average. ... This was the second of four meetings between the Sabres and Bruins this season. The next meeting takes place on Feb. 4 in Buffalo.