Summary — The Bruins took a dominating lead in their Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series against the Sabres with a 3-2 win at TD Garden on Wednesday night. Miroslav Satan scored the game winner for Boston in double overtime. Tuukka Rask took the win for Boston while Ryan Miller got the loss after giving away a 2-0 lead in the third period. The Bruins now lead the series 3-1 heading into Game 5 in Buffalo on Friday.
Boston entered the third period trailing by two goals but fought back in the first six minutes of the period to tie it. David Krejci got the first for Boston eights second into what was its fourth power play attempt of the night when he put a rebound off a Matt Hunwick shot from the high slot passed Miller at 2:07. Patrice Bergeron would then tie it when he got a bouncing puck coming off Daniel Paille’s stick from behind the net for the one-timer on the circle that Miller could not corral at 6:40.
For the fourth consecutive game, the Sabres got on the board first with a strike within the first 10 minutes of the first period. This time, the goal came at a relatively early 2:12 off the stick of Tim Kennedy when he found a bouncing puck loose in the slot in front of Rask and rushed for the slap shot that the net-minder had no chance at to make it 1-0.
Buffalo took a 2-0 lead at 6:59 in the second when former Bruins Steve Montador lined up a slap shot on the right point in such a precise manner that it would have to travel through a series of players in front of Miller to find the net. The puck had eyes ‘ it deflected off a Boston defenseman and went through the skates of Paul Gaustad camped out in front of Rask. It was Montador’s first goal of the playoffs.
Miroslav Satan — The Bruins forward got the game-winner in double overtime.
Patrice Bergeron — Scored the game-tying goal in the third period off a shot similar to his Game 3 winner except from the other side.
David Krejci — Got the Bruins on the board when his astute play in front of the net on the power play resulted in a rebound strike to beat Miller.
Turning Point — Boston got broke the power play seal after three misfires to cut the Sabres lead in half in the third period. Mark Recchi pushed the puck from the right slot to Hunwick who waited for two stick-handles before sending the puck on net, getting tangled near the skates of Bergeron before bouncing out to Krejci who side stepped and put it in an open net to make it 2-1.
Key Play — Tuukka Rask had a flying leap on a Michael Grier shot a little more than halfway through the third period on a play where he was way out of position on the other side of the crease.
With all the face washing that Milan Lucic has been doling out this series, it was about time that one of the Sabres officially dropped the gloves for a traditional hockey fight against the hulking young forward.
It was captain Craig Rivet that did it for the Sabres, getting tangled with Lucic on top of the right circle in Buffalo’s defensive zone. It was not one of the fights that either will write home about but a couple good punches were thrown and sweaters were clutched but no take down was registered as the officials broke it up after the pair had floated the the far side of the zone.
Just like in Game 2, the Sabres would take a 2-0 lead though this time around the second goal game in the second period. Former Bruin Steve Montador lined up a shot from the right point that had eyes through to the net that was helped along by an especially good screen by Paul Gaustad and a deflection off a Bruin defenseman at 6:59.
Boston’s best chance to cut into the lead came when Mark Recchi and Lucic found themselves on a breakaway with only defenseman Toni Lydman in near of them in before Ryan Miller. Recchi skated down the slot and was tripped by Lydman but was still able to get the puck on net while sliding down the ice, giving Lucic a chance for the rebound. Miller stood like a brick wall and stopped it all and Lydman was sent to the box.
Boston could not convert anything on the man-advantage and are 0 for 3 on the game on the power play.
After initially outshooting Boston seven to three after 10 minutes in the period, Boston came back to tie the game again at 16 shots apiece heading into the third.
Well, it did not take too long for Cody McCormick to make his presence felt in this series.
Tim Kennedy scored 2:12 into the game to make it the fourth straight contest in which the Sabres have scored the first goal. The strike came on a broken play after a Johnny Boychuk ht behind Tuukka Rask’s net knocked the puck loose which touched Tyler Ennis on its way to bouncing loose and free in the slot where Kennedy rushed in for a quick one-timer that Rask had no chance at for the 1-0 lead. McCormick was in on the play and got the secondary assist in his first shift of the playoffs for the Sabres.
The Bruins got the first power play of the game at 12:33 after Vladimir Sobotka leveled a big hit on Tim Kennedy on the half wall to the left of Rask that Kennedy did not take kindly to. Kennedy got in Sobotka’s face and delivered a horizontal stick to the center’s mouth that the officials did not think was all that friendly and Kennedy went for the two-minute timeout at 12:33.
Boston battled itself through much of the first period, losing face offs and battles for the puck and the man-advantage was no different as the set plays could not lead to shots that got through traffic to Ryan Miller and were cleared numerous times to help the Sabres kill.
The second Boston power play of the night was not efficient either after Andrej Sekera made a two-line back pass turnover through the neutral zone that Blake Wheeler tracked down on a mini break down the left wing, closing in on Miller. Buffalo’s Craig Rivet had no choice but to hold Wheeler and went to the box for his indiscretion.
Milan Lucic negated the last 24-second of that power play when he smushed defenseman Henrik Tallinder into the boards at 16:51 which would in turn lead to the Sabres first man-advantage of the night. With each team’s penalty killing units (or corresponding ineffective power plays), the Bruins killed it.
The man-advantages stopped the momentum from completely shifting in favor of the Sabres in the first and ultimately led to an equal distribution of shots in the contest as the teams are tied at eight heading into the second period.
One day after Marc Savard passed a neuro-psych evaluation and was cleared to practice with the Bruins, coach Claude Julien addressed the media Wednesday morning and tempered any enthusiasm about the center returning for the Sabres series.
“I don’t really have the answers on how far away,” Julien said. “He has been out for six weeks. He hasn’t been able to exercise or do anything. When you bring a guy back in the playoffs you have to make sure, for his sake number one, that he’s ready to jump in, and he has got to be in shape to keep up with that pace. The other part is that passing that test that he can start skating and doing different things but he still has to go through different kinds of tests. He hasn’t taken any contact yet. You know, for me to stand here and predict that he will be back at this stage would be unrealistic.”
Injured Sabres forward Thomas Vanek participated in Buffalo’s morning skate prior to Game 4 against the Bruins at TD Garden on Wednesday night. Vanek was injured in Game 2 at HSBC Arena after taking a slash to his right knee from Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk and sliding into the end boards. He has been seen wearing a boot on his left leg, and coach Lindy Ruff has not given any significant updates on his leading scorer’s status or availability. Vanek told reporters Tuesday that he would try to play in Game 4 and Ruff said on Wednesday that he would be a game-time decision.
“That will be a game-time decision on whether he plays. We’re just trying to get him a little extra ice time to see what he looks like,” Ruff said.
Vanek was not available to the media but was overheard talking to an assistant coach on the bench saying “I just don’t want to do anything to make it worse” shortly after the Sabres’ workout had ended.
Ruff also said that forward Matt Ellis would not play on Wednesday after suffering a broken nose and just generally being banged up after a second-period Boychuk hit in Game 3. Cody McCormick was recalled from AHL Portland and will skate in Game 4.
“Because he is playing very well. He is a guy that has played 16-20 minutes a game down there [Portland],” Ruff said. “He is a big body that can get to the front of the net. I think he can win battles down low. Without [Jochen] Hecht, without Vanek, without some bigger bodies, some of the battles have gone the other way and I think a big guy that will be able to win some battles will be important for us. He is thought very highly of by Portland, and if we can get 16-17 minutes out of him, I think he will be able to bring us a lot tonight.”
That would be a lot of minutes considering that Ellis averaged 10:13 in Game 1 and 2 before Boychuk’s hit limited him to sporadic minutes for the rest of Game 3. McCormick is a veteran of 190 NHL games, all with Colorado from 2003-09, and signed with the Sabres last summer and spent the entire season with the Pirates. He recorded 12 goals and 17 assists with Portland and a team-high 168 penalty minutes. For his NHL career, the forward has 30 points and 250 penalty minutes.
It will be interesting to see exactly what type of role Ruff has McCormick play Wednesday evening, either as an agitator to get under the Bruins’ collective skin or more as a forward to win battles in front of the net.
The Bruins had an optional morning skate at TD Garden on Wednesday before Game 4, with 10 players participating, including goalie Tim Thomas. Dennis Wideman and non-regular players including Brad Marchand and Andrew Bodnarchuk got some ice time in.
“It always helps when your ‘D’ blocks shots and makes it easy for you. It has been like that all year,” Rask said. “It is intense, great atmosphere, tight games. It has been pretty much what we have expected. It is just hockey, you don’t want to think about it too much … It is the same [as the AHL playoffs] but different players and a different level. It’s louder but still at the end of the day it is the same game, not too much difference.”
Rask has kept his cool and calm demeanor on and off the ice through the first three games of the series. He has not changed and is not planning to change. When asked if he has played to his own expectations Rask’s answer was smooth and steady.
“You know, I don’t think I have played a great game. I have played on my level and you know, so far it has helped us to win a couple of games but the guys have done a great job in front of me, leaving me so I do not have to play that great game. I just try to save every puck and if that means to play a great game, so be it. But I don’t want to give up those easy goals, you know,” Rask said.
— Coach Claude Julien touched on the power play deficiencies of each team heading into Game 4. So far the Sabres are 0 for 12 while the Bruins are 1 for 6, with the lone goal coming courtesy of Mark Recchi in Boston’s Game 1 loss at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. Julien said it is a matter of making adjustments between games, especially in a long playoff series against a divisional foe that the Bruins have seen nine times so far this season.
They had some power play opportunities, obviously more than us, but you know, both teams have done a great job on the penalty kill. What happens in [the] playoffs too is we forget that you’re playing the same team night after night, so you’re seeing their tendencies and then you’re making adjustments,” Julien said. “We saw that last year, when we were in the playoffs, that it’s harder for power plays to have the success that they’ve had during the regular season because they play one team one night. They play another the next night. Every team has a chance to adjust. You have days in between games and they look at the video and make those adjustments, so it’s not as easy as it is watching and you just make the best you can out of it, and that’s why you’re starting to see teams shoot a lot more when they have those opportunities.”
— Speaking of Recchi, his contract is up at the end of the season and the 42-year-old forward has said repeatedly this season that he has not made a decision about retiring though he is probably leaning towards playing next year. He said that he and general manager Peter Chiarelli have not talked about a contract yet but that the he is open to staying in Boston.
“It has been a good spot for me here, so, yeah,” Recchi said.
Recchi is playing out a $1 million, one-year contract he signed with the team last summer and said that at this point in his career, where he has made close to $50 million in player contracts alone, money is not an issue. He is looking for a good spot to play that will give him playoff opportunities going forward.
— Injured defenseman Dennis Seidenberg began working out on Monday after getting clearance from doctors after severing a tendon in his arm. Seidenberg could not work out before that because of the risk of infection after the surgery. He said he is doing some strength and cardio work but, anything he can do that does not involve the injured arm. Seidenberg, who has a short cast on his arm, said that he will be in the cast for another for two weeks and then a splint for two weeks before starting physical therapy on the forearm. He said his range of movement in the wrist is “about 10 percent” and that would have to significantly improve before he came back.
At this point Seidenberg would be available if the Bruins make the Stanley Cup Finals that would start around the end of May. If that were to happen, Seidenberg joked that he would end up on the bench because the team would have already done so much without him.
“When they get to the Finals without me, I doubt they would play me,” Seidenberg said.