|Second period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres – Game 3||04.19.10 at 8:45 pm ET|
Back and forth they go.
The Sabres got the first real power play of the game when Milan Lucic was called for a a drive-by high-sticking penalty when he caught the butt-end of his stick on the cheek of Craig Rivet while chasing the puck back out of his own offensive zone on the forecheck at 1:57. Buffalo entered Game 3 without a man-advantage strike through the first two contests, going 0 for 9 in the process. The Sabres worked on the power play through their entire morning skate, showing off two different formations that both featured a lot of movement to the net.
The Sabres may never find out how those sets work against the Bruins because the stout Boston penalty kill has consistently foiled any clean Buffalo entries into their zone and the Bruins were able to kill off their 10th in a row in the series.
Outside of Zdeno Chara dumping Tyler Ennis into Buffalo’s bench in Game 2, the biggest hit of the series came shortly after the power play when Buffalo forward Matt Ellis was trying to skate the puck clear of the Sabres’ offensive zone when he was met by their perpetual agitator in this series, Johnny Boychuk. The defenseman stood Ellis up and knocked him flat on his back, going from forward motion to the ice in a flash as he was separated from the puck.
Boston got its first crack at the power play when Paul Gaustad went to the box for interference at 12:18. The Bruins got a man-advantage strike from Mark Recchi in Game 1 but have not been able to tally in three other chances in the first two games. Despite decent puck movement in their the zone the Bruins were foiled on this attempt as well. Boston got another chance a few minutes later when Andrej Sekera took an interference call at 15:06 but the Sabres, who actually ranked higher than the Bruins in penalty killing during the regular season (second to third), battled through again to make Boston 1 for 6 on the series.
To punctuate the see-saw that was the second period, Boston took two penalties in the final three minutes. The first was to Marco Sturm, negating the last 17-seconds of Boston’s power play off the Sekera penalty. Once the Bruins killed that one off they had to start another as Andrew Ference took a tripping call at 18:51.
The Sabres wills start the third a man up and lead the Bruins in shots 21 to 20.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff knows that a team’s “special players” have to be the ones that carry a team through a playoff series. Yes, the team that works harder, the scheme that is more effective, the luck or misfortune inherent in the playoffs all are factors in determining which teams take a step closer to Lord Stanley’s Cup, but sometimes it is just about which team has more talent.
“Your special players can still win the game for you,” Ruff said. “I think that if your special players have good opportunities they have to make a difference for you and that will be the difference in the series.”
Yet, Ruff and the Sabres will be missing the player that gave them a significant talent edge over the Bruins in the form of Thomas Vanek. The Austrian forward went down in Game 2 on Saturday after Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk chased him down on a partial break and slashed at his knee causing him to lose his edge and tumble into the end wall. Ruff told the media on Sunday that he was pleasantly surprised about Vanek’s condition after initially fearing the worst but that he will still be out for Game 3 at TD Garden Monday evening.
“No step back but no progress,” Ruff said of Vanek’s status. “Same as yesterday.”
Boychuk has been getting some flack around the league for what some fans and media have called a vicious two-handed slash that was either over-aggressive or had the specific intent to injure. Boychuk was not having any of that.
“It wasn’t even that bad, I think,” Boychuk said. “He was basically almost on a breakaway and I was going to try and lift his stick on the left and I switched and hit his right leg instead of his left leg. I was trying to hit his stick to push the puck off, just so happens that I hit his leg and he fell down.”
Coach Claude Julien was also of the opinion that Boychuk’s slash was more of a “hockey move” than anything malicious.
“None of the above. I don't think he was overaggressive. He did a hockey play. I think it's pretty obvious, and I don't want to dwell on this stuff, but Vanek got hurt going into the boards. It's his left leg, not his right, so he got hurt that way,” Julien said. ”I think it's pretty obvious those are things that happen in the game of hockey. We all have injuries on every team, so let's turn the page and move on, on that. I don't think he's overaggressive. He's played well for us and I think that's where we see Johnny Boychuk, a pretty good defenseman for us.”
Boychuk was adamant that there was no intent to injure.
“No, not a chance. Why would I want to harm the guy? It makes no sense,” Boychuk said.
Well, Mr. Boychuk, an injury to Vanek makes perfect sense if you have a rooting interest in the Bruins. Whatever the intent was, it is pretty obvious that Boychuk and Julien are sticking to their version of the incident. Boychuk will never admit to going after Vanek and to be fair the forward was closing in on goaltender Tuukka Rask with the puck on his stick. Boychuk was penalized for the slash and since the play was on the puck as much as the player their was no attempt to hide it away from the game action the way it sometimes happens in the NHL.
Ruff may be trying to paint a happy picture to the media with his “pleasantly surprised” comments but there have been whispers that the injury might be a high-ankle sprain, which would put him out of commission for most of the playoffs if Buffalo were to make a run at the Cup. Boston’s Milan Lucic had the same injury this year and it took him eight weeks to recover and said that he feels for Vanek if that is indeed the case.
“Ever since I got it I don’t wish that injury on anyone,” Lucic said. “It is definitely the toughest injury that I have gone through and I think everyone who has had it will tell you the same thing.”
The matchups in the series are such that players like Derek Roy, Tim Connolly for Buffalo and Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci for the Bruins effectively cancel each other out. Even the defensive pairings are similar with both teams having one of the tallest defensemen in NHL history with Zdeno Chara and rookie Tyler Myers. Vanek was the key for the Sabres though and Ruff knows it.
“I'm looking ahead. I am looking at tonight's game. That's my only focus. We need some guys to be better. When you say you have to work real hard, you can work as hard as you want but if the puck doesn't go in the net, you don't win the game,” Ruff said.
|First period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres – Game 2||04.17.10 at 2:00 pm ET|
Take a bow, Tyler Myers.
The 20-year- old, 6-foot, 8-inch Buffalo defenseman is in the midst of his coming out party. As the second tallest man in the NHL (behind Zdeno Chara, of course), it is hard to miss the lanky blue liner but it Boston hockey fans had not noticed him in the six regular season games the Bruins and Sabres played, they sure will now.
Myers got the Buffalo on the board early with a bomb from the blue line that deflected off the skate of Boston forward Steve Begin just enough to redirect it through the crease and a diving Tuukka Rask. It was the rookie’s first ever postseason goal and the second time this series that the Sabres have taken a goal lead in the first five minutes of the game.
Buffalo had momentum all period as the Bruins could not keep themselves out of the penalty box. Vladimir Sobotka took the first when crashing the net at 6:56 for goaltender interference. Buffalo gave Boston the man-advantage as Derek Roy was guilty of holding the stick at 9:04 but Boston could not take the opportunity as David Krejci gave it right back with a high-sticking call at 9:25.
Defenseman Johnny Boychuk was the next to the box when he was called for hooking at 13:39 when he hacked at Thomas Vanek’s knee. Vanek lost his edge and slid into the end wall. He was hurt on the play and had trouble hobbling back to the bench and down the tunnel.
Matt Ellis made it a two-goal game for the Sabres at 12:00 when he threw a backhand at Rask the flew to the far side, off the post into the net.
That is how it stands heading into the second period, 2-0 Buffalo.
|Bruin’s shutout extinguishes Flames||03.27.10 at 3:33 pm ET|
Summary — The Bruins found their stroke on Saturday with a 5-0 victory over Calgary at a sold out matinee game at TD Garden. Tim Thomas got the start and the win with his fifth shutout of the year by stopping 31 shots. Miikka Kiprusoff took the loss for the Flames by allowing five goals on 29 shots before giving way to backup Vesa Toskala in the third period.
Boston broke out of its power play funk in a big way after entering the game on an 0-for-22 streak with its last man-advantage goal coming on a Marco Sturm strike against the Maple Leafs on March 9. Dennis Seidenberg got the credit for snapping the streak at 14:08 in the first period after a Craig Conroy hooking call when he hit a one-timer from the high slot that had eyes to the top of the net for a 1-0 Bruins lead.
In the second period Boston had its way on the power play again. Conroy went back to the box for hooking at :31 which set up David Krejci for a wrist shot from the left circle at 1:29 that got through traffic and beat Kiprusoff high. Zdeno Chara got in on the mix after Rene Bourque took a goaltender interference call when he plowed through Thomas at 4:34. Chara activated on the next series and took a feed from Krejci in the slot in front of Kiprusoff with enough time and space to choose the location of his wrist shot, high over the stick-side shoulder for the 3-0 lead.
Patrice Bergeron recorded his 17th goal of the season at 4:24 in the third period when he used Conroy as a deflector shield with a shot from the goal line that he put off the center’s knees to beat Kiprusoff. Mark Recchi would match Bergeron with his 17th of the year 1:31 later at 5:51 when he dove for a Sturm rebound to beat Kiprusoff and end the netminder’s night as Toskala came in to replace him.
Bruins’ defenseman Johnny Boychuk received a five-minute elbowing major and a game misconduct at 7:21 in the third when he went in for a hit on in the corner against Rene Bourque with his forearm/elbow raised high enough to catch the Flames’ forward flush across the face.
David Krejci — The center has been on fire of late with eight points (three goals, five assists) in his last five games. Scored the second power play goal and helped set up the third.
Zdeno Chara — The captain had his first multi-point game since a three-point effort on Dec. 23 against Atlanta with a power play goal and an assist. Chara now has six multi-point games for the season.
Tim Thomas — The reigning Vezina Trophey winner was solid for Boston in picking up his 16th win of the year with his fifth shutout.
Turning Point — Chara’s goal was the one that sent the Bruins on their way to a victory without looking back over their shoulders for pursuing Flames. He was set up on the power play by Milan Lucic and Krejci to the point where he could skate down the slot with space straight at Kiprusoff and pick his target for the 3-0 lead.
Key Play — Seidenberg’s strike in the first period broke what was basically and 0-for-March power play for the Bruins. He combined with to make Team Dennis with fellow defenseman Dennis Wideman as they shuffled the puck along the point in the first period to the point that Seidenberg had enough space to pull off a one-timer from the high slot at 14:08 that was heavy and had eyes to the back of the net.
|Bruins cannot bottle Lightning in loss||03.25.10 at 9:34 pm ET|
Summary — The Bruins could not bottle up the Lightning at TD Garden en route to a 5-3 loss on Thursday night. Tuukka Rask took the loss by allowing five goals on 18 shots after coming into the game the NHL leader in goals against average at 2.02. Antero Niittmaki shut down a Bruins attack that mustered an astounding 50 shots but only the three goals.
Tampa Bay came out of the gates hot. Just 49-seconds into the game Steve Downie fed Steve Stamkos coming down the slot right at Rask. Downie put it right on Stamkos’s tape and it was any easy goal. There was a mild controversy if Stamkos was offsides on the rush but no ruling was made. The Lightning would go up two ate in the first period when Dennis Seidenberg botched a pass to Michael Ryder rolling up the right wing that turn Vincent Lecavalier instantly turned for a break the other way. Lecavalier would shoot/pass from the wing to a rushing Martin St. Louis. The puck and St. Louis reached Rask at the same time and the forward won the battle and slipped the puck into the net at 18:05.
Boston would gain one of those goals back with 26.8 seconds left in the first period. David Krejci battled on the half-wall to win the puck and passed the puck in front of Niittymaki onto the stick of Zdeno Chara who deflected it through the crease to cut the Lightning lead in half.
Tampa pushed its advantage back to two in the front half of the second period when Paul Szcezchura spotted the puck on a turnover in the Bruins zone on the right circle and sent a shot on Rask that was stopped but slipped through the crease somehow to make it 3-1 at 6:50.
Johnny Boychuk got the goal back for Boston at 10:42 in the second when he beat Niittymaki through a stretching, far side five hole for his fifth of the season.
Stamkos struck again within a minute of the end of the second period on the power play when he fired a one-time rocket from the top of the left circle that streaked through traffic and passed Rask to make the score 4-2.
Szczechura got his second of the game at 3:00 in the third on the power play when he took a feed from St. Louis in the slot in front of Rask and beat the goalie high glove side to make it a three goal Tampa advantage. Boston closed it to two at 11:50 when Mark Recchi scored his 16th of the season by banging the puck into the net from the within the crease.
Steven Stamkos — An impressive effort by the 20-year-old former No.1 overall pick. He was a constant thorn in the Bruins side en route to a two goal performance that gave him 45 for the season.
Paul Szczechura — The Lightning center scored his fourth and fifth goals of the season in his 48th game of the year for Tampa.
David Krejci — The Bruins center looked a lot like his 2008-09 self as he set up the Bruins first two goals and was active with the puck all game long.
Turning Point — Stamkos’ second goal at the end of the second period stopped any chance of a comeback that the Bruins may have had as it increased the Lightning lead back to two goals. The Bruins are 3-22-0 (including Thursday) this season when they trail by two goalsl at any time during a game.
Key Play — The the Bruins biggest breakdown of the game cost them on what turned out to be Szczechura’s first of the game in the second period. The Lightning chased the puck into the Bruins zone and maintained a forecheck that ended up with Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference attempting to clear the puck from behind the goal line that ended up right on the stick of a charging Szchechura. All the center needed to do was wind up and fire. Rask stopped it initially but the shot’s momentum carried it through the crease.
|Second period summary: Bruins vs. Lightning||at 8:42 pm ET|
The Steven Stamkos show continued late in the second period as his power play blast beat Tuukka Rask for his 45th goal of the season. Not only did the goal with 25.8 seconds left in the period put Tampa Bay up, 4-2 after two periods, it tied the unsung star with Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead.
Chara had a couple of bad giveaways in his own zone in the first period but scored Boston’s first goal with an aggressive pinch up the slot with 26.8 seconds left.
Then, in the second period, Boychuk lost control of the puck behind Tuukka Rask. It was stolen by Paul Szczechura, who put it past the unsuspecting Bruins netminder for a 3-1 Tampa lead.
But Boychuk, like Chara, redeemed himself with a nifty shot from the low right point. Boychuk used the screen in front of Antero Niittymaki beautifully and when the puck went through the five-hole, the Bruins had closed the gap again to one at the 10:22 mark.
In the opening two minutes, there was an ironic moment as Shawn Thornton took out Kurtis Foster on the corner boards to the right of Niittymaki. The check close to the head of Foster could be the first instance of discipline from the new NHL ‘Blindshot Headshot’ rule enacted earlier in the day.
Bruins are more-than-doubling up Tampa Bay on the shot clock, 31-15, after 40 minutes.
|Bruins wary of Thrashers||03.22.10 at 1:42 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — Question: Where the heck did the Thrashers come from?
All of a sudden the hockey team from Atlanta is a point behind the Bruins for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with a chance to jump Boston if it can win on home ice Tuesday night. This from a team that just about everybody had counted out after they traded one of the best goal scorers in the league in the form of Ilya Kovalchuk to the Devils on Feb. 4.
“Well they picked up some pretty good players along the way,” coach Claude Julien said. “[Clark] Macarthur from Buffalo and obviously in the New Jersey deal they got a pretty good defenseman out of it (Johnny Oduya) who I think is underrated. They have got a pretty good team, they are getting good goaltender right now and I thin they are pretty confident. It is a good challenge for us tomorrow … we know that when we play well and how we can, we are capable of beating any team.”
After losing five our of six to start the month of March, the Thrashers have caught fire of late with four straight wins over Phoenix, Buffalo, Ottawa and Philadelphia. One could say that the Trashers wins over the Flyers and Senators were favors to the Bruins (both teams are three points ahead of Boston with 79 points) but it is a paradox that fans in the Hub would preferably not explore — have a team behind them get hot and take points from the teams ahead only to come and steal their playoff spot.
The win over the Rangers was good for the psyche of the Bruins. Their practice on Monday morning was lively and boisterous, which has not always been the case at Ristuccia in 2010. That being said, New York is not exactly a team burning down the barn.
“Atlanta is more dangerous because Atlanta is playing good,” Tim Thomas said. “New York is just hanging in there and Atlanta has been charging from behind. I think Atlanta will be the bigger test. It is always in our hands we just got to get timely goals like we did against New York and try to keep them off the board as much as possible.”
The Bruins looked like a much different team on Sunday against the Rangers than they did last Thursday in the grudge match verse the Penguins. The mood around the team was quite different from game to game whereas Boston seemed a little tight with all the scrutiny around the Pittsburgh game that was not as present against New York.
“I think Pittsburgh was a little bit of a wake up call,” Johnny Boychuk said. “You got to come out and play. You can’t take any day off especially since we are battling for the playoffs. Last night everybody came to play and we battled and stood up for each other. We just wanted it. That was the difference between both games.”
Thomas admitted that the flu bug was a problem on Thursday and Boychuk said that it had a tough 24-hour effect on a bunch of members of the team.
“We knew they were both important games and we came up big in one and not in the other,” Thomas said. “We had a lot of guys sick against Pittsburgh. You hate to say that plays into it, but it does. Let’s face it, Pittsburgh and New York are two different teams.”
– Patrice Bergeron is going out of his way to get in touch with Matt Brown, the Norwood High hockey player who broke his neck in a hockey game in January. Brown is in Atlanta at the Shepard Center for Rehabilitation undergoing treatment.
“I have been through similar stuff and I know it is tough to sometimes stay positive,” Bergeron said. “You get frustrated. It is something that I want to share with him and I am excited to go see him, him and his family. We prepared a little bag of stuff to remind him about Boston a little bit. Some movies, some stuff different professional teams in Boston, some clam chowder and stuff like that. I hope he is going to like it and it is going to be fun to first meet him and see how he is doing.”
Here is the practice participation by sweater color:
White — Milan Lucic, Miroslav Satan, Vladimir Sobotka
Goaltenders — Tuukka Rask, Tim Thomas
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