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NHL Wednesday review: Boston Bruins flex muscles against Buffalo Sabres

The NHL returned from its Christmas break with a 14-game slate on Wednesday that featured the usual action and a few upsets.

In the relentless grind of the regular season, a four-day pause can feel like a lifetime and while some teams would have been glad of the chance to reset and recharge, others would probably have preferred to stay in the groove.

The first night back featured joy at both ends of the standings, with the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings strengthening their positions, while struggling teams in the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa Senators gave their fans some festive cheer.

Bruins power back into the win column

Arguably no team needed to get away from the rink more than the Boston Bruins. The early-season pacesetters had looked dire while running up a four-game losing streak with every facet of their game coming up short.

Goaltender Jeremy Swayman and forward Jakub Lauko managed to get themselves trapped in an elevator while going to visit teammate Kevin Shattenkirk over Christmas, but there were no such faux pas as they returned to the ice on Wednesday with a convincing 4-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres. 

Rookie defenseman Mason Lohrei opened the scoring for the Bruins. The team potted the next three goals on the power-play with two for Charlie Coyle and Morgan Geekie scoring the other.

Buffalo, who were without Tage Thompson, spoiled Swayman's shutout through Erik Johnson's shot early in the third, but the game was gone by then. Boos rang out as the Sabres went dry through six power-play opportunities.

Leafs lose ground in divisional battle

Boston's travails had seen their lead in the Atlantic Division dwindle, but rivals Toronto had struggled to make much impression and suffered a dismal defeat to bottom side Ottawa on Wednesday.

The Maple Leafs have now lost three of their last four, including a 9-3 defeat to Buffalo before Christmas, and they gave up four unanswered goals after going 2-0 up inside the first 6:04 at home to Ottawa.

The loss saw Toronto fall to third in the division thanks to the Panthers' win over Florida rivals Tampa Bay Lightning.

Senators captain Brady Tkachuk notched his 300th NHL point with a late empty-netter, but his team are still 14 points adrift of the playoff places.

Golden Knights hit new low in Anaheim

Defending Stanley Cup champions the Golden Knights went into the break on a three-game skid and things took another turn for the worse in Anaheim on Wednesday.

Only three teams have scored fewer goals than the Ducks this season, but they were able to go 4-0 up within just over 12 minutes of the opening face-off against Vegas.

Alec Martinez and Mark Stone pulled two back for visitors in the second period, before Brett Leason potted his second of the night to re-establish a three-goal lead for Anaheim later in the stanza.

Vegas sit second in the Pacific Division but stand to lose more ground as the Kings are three points behind with five games in hand, including a trip to Nevada on Thursday.

Bedard the hero as Blackhawks down Jets

This time last year, Connor Bedard was starring for Team Canada in the World Junior Championship, and while the 18-year-old will no doubt be keeping track of his former teammates' exploits in Sweden there was no sign of distraction on Wednesday.

Bedard arrived in the NHL with huge expectation on his shoulders and it is fair to say he is living up to the hype, leading his Chicago Blackhawks with 15 goals and 32 points in his first 34 games in the league.

The teen sensation opened the scoring against the run of play as the Blackhawks hosted a Winnipeg Jets side 22 points better off than them on Wednesday, and then secured the extra point after regulation time expired with the score at 1-1.

Read more: NHL rookie rankings

Miller stars as Rangers rout Capitals

Eastern Conference leaders New York Rangers recorded their fifth win in six games with a 5-1 demolition of the Washington Capitals at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.

Little was expected of the Caps coming into the season, but they occupy a playoff spot and struck first in the game through Anthony Mantha early in the second.

K'Andre Miller had levelled within three minutes, though, and by the end of the period it was 3-1 Rangers as Artemi Panarin and Braden Schneider added goals 40 seconds apart.

Miller scored again seven minutes into the final period and assisted on Alex Lafreniere's final nail in the Washington coffin.

Read more: NHL Power Rankings

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