|04.23.10 at 9:38 pm ET|
Summary — Buffalo cut into the Bruins series lead by taking Game 5 with a desperation effort 3-0 at HSBC Arena on Friday night. Ryan Miller took the win with 34 saves to keep the Sabres hopes alive while Tuukka Rask let in three goals on 32 shots in taking his second loss of his young playoff career.
For the fifth straight game in the series the Sabres scored the first goal within the first ten minutes of the first period. Adam Mair was the culprit this time when he took the puck behind Rask’s crease, turned and fired a whipcord wraparound that went to the far side of the net at 1:54 for the early lead.
Buffalo, desperate from the start, put up a two-goal advantage at 18:54 of the first when the Bruins could not clear the puck from their zone. Andrew Ference tried to skip it up the wall but hit Blake Wheeler with the puck instead. It bounced off Wheeler and Vladimir Sobotka could not track it down as it travelled to the high slot where Derek Roy rejoined the play and put the puck on Rask. Jason Pominville, in on the initial giveaway, beat Ference down the slot and scored on the rebound by putting the puck around Rask’s pads.
The Sabres ballooned their lead to three goals at 9:22 in the second when Paul Gaustad when a quick-snap face off on the right circle that went straight to the stick of Michael Grier who took a slap shot the beat Rask to the right side of his crease. It was the first three goal lead by either team in the series and Grier’s second of the playoffs.
Johnny Boychuk scored the Bruins lone goal with a power play slap shot at 17:30 in the third period to make it 3-1. Boston emptied Rask from the net immediately thereafter and the Sabres cleared the puck from their zone, bouncing at the wall at center ice and sliding to the Boston net. Rookie Tyler Ennis won race to the puck, dove and swept it in for the empty-netter to account for the final score.
Ryan Miller — He would not get burnt in the third period for the third time against Boston and was able to bring Buffalo back to within a game of the Bruins.
Adam Mair — The fourth line center had his first of the series to give the Sabres quick confidence with a lightning strike early in the first period.
Michael Grier — Not only did he score the third goal of the game, he threw his body around to the tune of five hits and three blocked shots including one that put him out of the game for a bit in the third period.
Turning Point — Pominville’s goal. The giveaway was the essence of the Bruins night at HSBC Arena. Wheeler could not get out the way of a clearing puck, Sobotka cannot track it down as it slides to the slot and Ference gets burned by Pominville as he crashes the net. The two-goal advantage would be all that Miller would need to put the Bruins away.
Key Play — All of the goals that Rask let in could have been avoided one way or another but the one that gave the Sabres the first three goal lead by either team in the series was more of the net minder’s fault than the first two. Gaustad won the face off and Grier shot. Simple enough. It was the type of goal that the Bruins hardly ever allow and could not afford to do so when trying to put the series away.
|04.23.10 at 8:41 pm ET|
In classic hockey statistics (no advanced metrics here) the blocked shot could be considered the “desperation meter” stat.
In that regard, the Sabres are all over Boston through the first two periods. The actual shot total (those that got all the way to the goaltender or net) is 27 to 13, indicating the Sabres total dominance of the first 40 minutes but Buffalo also leads in blocked shots by a double digit margin. Boston has gone to their desperation mode as they try to climb back into the contest. The Sabres have been throwing themselves around everywhere, much like they did in taking a 2-0 lead in the first two periods Game 4 at TD Garden before the Bruins came back to tie it in the third and win it in double overtime.
It has added up to some prime time frustration for the Bruins attack and some extra time with the puck for the Sabres. The Boston defensive corps is not having its best effort of the series with turnovers and bad exit passes from its own zone and Buffalo has capitalized all game. The first three goal lead that has been seen at anytime in this series came at 9:22 in the second when Michael Grier scored his second of the series with a slap shot off a face off won by Paul Gaustad on the circle to the left of Rask.
The Sabres are 31-2-0 this season, including playoffs, when taking a lead into the third period. The only positive thing for Boston? Those two Sabres’ losses came Game 2 and Game 4 of this series.
|04.23.10 at 7:48 pm ET|
The Bruins have to be thinking this a positive trend at this point in the series.
For the fifth straight game the Sabres scored the first goal of the game within the first ten minutes of the first period. The goals have been getting gradually earlier with Tim Kennedy’s opener in Game 4 at 2:12 and now Game 5 Adam Mair’s at 1:54.
Buffalo worked hard on the half-wall and Mair won the puck and skated hard around the back of Tuukka Rask’s net and emerged a couple feet out of the goal line. He turned with a whipcord and fired the puck across Rask to the far side of the net for the 1-0 lead.
The Sabres got the first chance on the power play but it was the same result as it has been all series – futility and frustration setting up the offense because the Bruins will not allow a clean entry into the zone. The kill make it 15 consecutive scoreless chances for Buffalo on the man-advantage through the series.
Boston has faired better when a man up, converting 25 percent of its chances in the series which has more or less proved the be the difference between the teams. It got a chance to tie the game when the Sabres top blue liner, rookie Tyler Myers, took a cross-checking penalty at 11:23. The difference between the Bruins and Buffalo’s power play is that Boston has been able to set up its system in the zone with Patrice Bergeron winning face offs and getting the puck to the triangle on the blue line to set up either a shot from the point or high slot or get it to the corners where Berergon or David Krejci can operate off the half walls.
The Bruins did just that and put pressure on Ryan Miller but a few shots were blocked before they ever got to the goaltender and ultimately the penalty was killed.
Boston’s best chance of the period came when Krejci rushed down the right wing and centered through the crease to a crashing Marco Sturm. The German forward was now able to get enough stick nor skate on it to push it into the open net with Miller out of position and it bounced harmlessly to the left of the crease.
Buffalo would make it 2-0 for the second straight game at 18:54. Boston could not clear the puck and essentially added a couple of assists to Jason Pominville in the process as Vladimir Sobotka and Andrew Ference could not get untangled from the puck on the point coming out of the zone. Sobotka had the giveaway to Derek Roy on the blue line and he shot with Pominville crashing for the rebound around Rask’s pads for the two-goal advantage.
As expected, the Sabres have come out with desperation and are putting the Bruins in their place, up by two goals and outshooting Boston 12 to 5 heading into the second period.
|04.22.10 at 1:55 pm ET|
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask joined the Dale & Holley show Thursday afternoon and talked about his heroics in Game 4 of the B’s first-round series vs. the Sabres. Rask made a diving save on Mike Grier midway through the third period to keep the game tied at 2, stretching across the crease to stop Grier’s one-timer. “I just gave it everything I had there on that shot and I think he kind of fanned on it and it ended up hitting my blocker,” Rask said. “That’s one of those saves [where] sometimes it hits you, sometimes it doesn’t. That time I got lucky there.”
Here’s the video of the save:
Rask already has a reputation as a goalie who does not get rattled easily, and even Wednesday’s double-overtime thriller didn’t leave him worried.. Said Rask: “You can’t be too nervous when you’re playing, but I talked to people who were at the game and they said they were pretty nervous about that game.”
That said, Rask noted that no one should confuse his levelheadedness with a lack of fire. Said Rask: “When the time comes to be competitive, I will be competitive. But my game is to be calm and not get too emotional.”
Rask said he likes playing every other day, and it hasn’t taken its toll on him yet. “It’s good when you’re playing good, and it’s good when you’re playing bad because the next game’s coming so fast,” he said. “I guess at some point it’s going to catch up and I’ll be tired, but it’s been great so far.”
Rask said he’s been impressed with the play of his counterpart, Buffalo’s Ryan Miller. “He’s been rock solid throughout the year and it’s the same in the playoffs. ‘¦ It’s fun to watch him, and it’s fun to beat him, too,” Rask said, adding: “You try not to pay too much attention to the other goalie. You just try to do the best job you can.”
Rask said he’s been aided by his defense, which has blocked a number of shots, especially Johnny Boychuk. “I buy him dinner every now and then so he likes to block those shots,” Rask joked of his minor league and NHL teammate. “He’s great at it. It really helps me a lot when guys like that block shots.”
To hear the interview, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.
|04.22.10 at 1:39 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins had a meeting and workout day at Ristuccia Arena on Thursday before heading to Buffalo for Game 5 on Friday night. Players who did not play in Wednesday’s double overtime Game 4 worked out on the ice, including Marc Savard as he makes his way back from a Grade 2 concussion.
“Same as normal, skated with the guys a little bit and tomorrow I will be skating with the guys again so it is positive, for sure,” Savard said.
Savard had a doctor’s appointment this morning to determine if he was ready for contact but said in the locker room that he had not heard back from about his status. Regardless, Savard will not be taking many hits when he does return to the full team practice as battle drills are typically suspended in the playoffs to keep players as fresh as possible.
“I hope to know this afternoon. There is not going to be much bumping in practice from here on in,” Savard said. “You know, tomorrow I think I am cleared to start doing some of that stuff. Some little bumps and stuff and gradually getting back into it.”
An interesting question has arisen with the daily Savard Watch — which center gets bumped from the rotation in Savard’s eventual return? It probably will not be against Buffalo but if the Bruins can put away the Sabres the reality that Boston has five good centers for four spots.
Bergeron and David Krejci are going to continue to man their respective lines. Vladimir Sobotka has been a spark plugged since getting regular time starting at the beginning of March and has really helped the games of the struggling Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder since he was paired with them in the final weeks of the regular season. With Savard coming back the natural thing would be to put Sobotka on the fourth line and sit either Steve Begin or Shawn Thornton. If Thornton sits, which would be likely in that situation, Begin would go to the wing and Sobotka would be the center but the fourth line would mean reduced minutes for the center and Boston benefits from having him on the ice.
It is a good problem to have but one that will need to be addressed when (if) Savard comes back.
Outside of Savard, there was not much else cooking around the Bruins in Wilmington. A couple meetings and a few players wandering in and out of the dressing room. Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara both gave the “one game at a time” routine and how hard it will be to close out the Sabres in Game 5 at HSBC Arena.
“It is always tough to play in Buffalo. The fans really get into it and they are really going to be going hard, we all know that so we have to be focusing on our game and be ready,” Chara said.
Boston was on the opposite end of the three games to one playoff spectrum last year after winning the first and dropping the next three to Carolina in the conference.
“We’ve been in their situation before so we know how hard it is to win that fourth game,” Chara said.
|04.22.10 at 1:22 am ET|
Bruins coach Claude Julien speaks to the media following his team’s 3-2 overtime victory over the Sabres. The Bruins have a 3-1 series lead heading into Buffalo for Game 5 on Friday night. Julien spoke on a variety of subjects, including Miroslav Satan, Tuukka Rask, what he told his team going into the second overtime period, and how difficult the next game will be.
|04.22.10 at 1:15 am ET|