|First period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres – Game 4||04.21.10 at 7:52 pm ET|
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.
|Bergeron’s goal gives Boston Game 3||04.19.10 at 9:37 pm ET|
Summary — The Bruins and Sabres shifted back to Boston on Monday for Game 3 in their quarterfinal Stanley Cup Playoff series, and Boston went up a game by beating the Sabres 2-1 in front of a sold-out crowd at TD Garden.
Patrice Bergeron got the game-winner for Boston at 12:57 of the third period to put the Bruins on top for good. Tuukka Rask won his second career playoff game 32 saves while Ryan Miller took the loss with 27 stops.
For the third straight game, the Sabres were the first to break the seal with a goal in the first 10 minutes of the first period. This time, forward Michael Grier was the perpetrator after Tim Kennedy pushed the puck forward to him through the neutral zone on the right wing. Grier took a took a snap shot from the top of the circle that Rask could not glove as it passed him far side for the 1-0 lead at 6:57.
Boston came back as the teams’ skated a 4-on-4 after Andrew Ference and Paul Gaustad had gone to their respective penalty boxes at 13:18 with matching roughing calls after a scrum in front of Rask’s net. Matt Hunwick hit center Vladimir Sobotka rushing down the right wing. Sobotka waited long enough to catch Dennis Wideman trailing the play enter the slot and hit him with a pass that the defenseman could one-time on the net to beat Miller stick side at 15:17 to tie the game heading into the second period.
The second period was a see-saw affair that featured 10 penalty minutes (four for Sabres, six for Bruins) and one giant hit by Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk on Matt Ellis at the blue line that separated the Buffalo forward from the puck. Neither team could take advantage of the power play time and the game headed to the third still tied at one.
Patrice Bergeron — The Bruins center scored his first goal of the playoffs and recorded his second point of the playoffs with the game-winner in the third.
Tuukka Rask — Out-dueled Ryan Miller for the second straight game in stopping 32 shots for his second career playoff win.
Dennis Wideman — Had a hand in two Bruins goals as he tied the game in the first and had the secondary assist on Bergeron’s game-winner.
Turning Point – After about a period and a half of spinning wheels on each side, Boston took the lead in the third period. That’s when Mark Recchi retrieved a loose puck behind the goal line in the corner and snapped it back in front to the bottom of the circle where Bergeron was waiting with a one-timer that Miller had no chance at to send the Bruins towards the victory. On the Sabres next time down the ice, there was a scrum in front of Rask that led to a variety of fisticuffs with Sobotka and Andrej Sekera dropping the gloves. Andrew Ference and Raffi Torres each took 10-minute misconduct penalties while Dennis Wideman and Craig Rivet had matching roughing calls.
Key Play – Rask got pressure in the third and handled a loose puck in his leg pads by just laying on it in the series after the big penalty scrum to foil one of the last chances that the Sabres would get in the game. Rask also made a big save after Miller went to the bench for the extra attacker when Buffalo took a timeout with 44.7 seconds left.
|First period summary: Bruins vs. Sabres – Game 3||at 7:46 pm ET|
That was not the start the Bruins were expecting in their first home playoff game in the series.
For the third consecutive game the Sabres jumped to a goal lead in the first ten minutes of the first period. This time it was Michael Grier on the rush after getting the puck pushed up to him on the left wing by Tim Kennedy through the neutral zone. Grier wound up and fired wide on Tuukka Rask and the skinny Finnish goaltender could not get his glove out far enough to reach the puck as it had eyes to the far side to give the Sabres a 1-0 lead at 6:57.
The teams played two minutes of 4-on-4 hockey starting at 13:18 after Rask had covered the puck in his crease and Sabres center Paul Gaustad went crashing hard into the net only to be pulled down and sat upon by Andrew Ference. Both Gaustad and Ference went to the box for roughing penalties.
Boston used the extra ice to its advantage. Defenseman Matt Hunwick hit Vladimir Sobotka down the right wing through the neutral zone time and space about him. Defenseman Dennis Wideman was the trailer through the slot and Sobotka waited long enough for Wideman to get halfway into the zone before feeding him a pass that he could perfectly one-time at Ryan Miller, beating the goalie stick side at 15:17 to tie the game.
The Sabres lead the shot parade through the first period 14 to 10 while Boston is outhitting Buffalo 16 to 14.
On to the second period with the score tied at one at TD Garden.
|B’s complete comeback to claim Game 2, tie series||04.17.10 at 3:58 pm ET|
Summary — Boston turned the series around on Saturday with a 5-3 comeback win over the Sabres at HSBC Arena in Buffalo. The Bruins fell behind 2-0 in the first period before tying the game in the second and netting three in the third. Rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask earned his first career playoff win with 26 saves. Ryan Miller allowed four goals on 30 Boston shots to take the loss.
The Bruins scored three in the third period after entering the frame down a goal. They tied the game on Michael Ryder’s second goal of the game on an odd-man rush when Blake Wheeler sent the puck across the ice in front of the crease and Ryder was able to control of it and put it high into the net. The game-winner came courtesy of Zdeno Chara with a wrist shot from the point that got by Miller with an effective screen from center David Krejci.
Buffalo took an early lead for the second straight game when rookie defenseman Tyler Myers took a blast from the point that went off the skate of Boston forward Steve Begin at 2:55 in the first period. It was the rookie’s first career playoff goal. Buffalo would make it a two-goal advantage later in the period when Matt Ellis charged down the right wing and flipped a backhand shot on Rask that the netminder took a bad angle on and it beat him far side of the post at 12:00.
Boston bounced back in the second period.
The Bruins cut the lead in half at 2:35 when Vladimir Sobotka took a screaming slap shot from the high slot that hit Miller in the chest and bounced straight up in the air, over his shoulder. Ryder went crashing the net and stuck his stick in the crease to finish it off for his first goal of the playoffs. Boston’s second goal came courtesy of the captain, Chara. Johnny Boychuk hit a slap shot from the right point that center Patrice Bergeron deflected straight to the one-timing stick of Chara in the circle to tie the game at 9:54.
Buffalo reclaimed the lead late in the period when Milan Lucic turned the puck over by his own end wall. Tyler Ennis found the loose rubber and flipped it back in front to Jason Pominville who put it passed Rask at 16:41.
Mark Recchi scored an empty-net goal with 19.4 seconds left for the Bruins’ fifth goal to seal the game.
Sabres forward Thomas Vanek left the game in the first period with a lower body injury after a hooking call on Boychuk, whose stick hit Vanek’s knee. He did not return.
Zdeno Chara — The captain kept bringing his team back with two goals and physical play to hold down the Sabres.
Michael Ryder — The forward scored two goals for the second time in three games (two against Washington in the regular-season finale).
Blake Wheeler — He helped set up both of Ryder’s goals with effective passing and heads-up play.
Turning Point — The Bruins did not have a good third period after a dominating second in Game 1. It was a different story in Game 2 as Boston had a two-goal burst early in the period to take its first lead of the series. The game-tying goal came on a 4-on-2 rush when Wheeler sent the puck back across the ice in front of the crease and it went through defenseman Andrew Ference to the stick of Ryder, who flipped it high into the net as Miller was out of position on the other side of the crease.
Key Play — With Boston holding on to its one-goal lead, its goaltender came up huge down the stretch to seal the series-tying victory. Buffalo forward Michael Grier had a point-blank attempt on Rask midway through the third but could not complete the finish as Rask came out of the crease and aggressively knocked the shot to the corner to end the threat and preserve the lead.
|Second period summary: Bruins vs. Sabes – Game 2||at 2:58 pm ET|
Nothing went right for the Bruins in the first period. By the laws of hockey karma, things would have to go well in the second period.
Entering the period down by two goals and facing a serious possibility of a two-game deficit, Boston clawed its way back into the game and the series. The first goal was the type of fortunate bounce that has not been a frequent occurrence for the Bruins this year. Blake Wheeler cycled the puck from the end wall back up the wing and centered to the high slot where Vladimir Sobotka was waiting with a big stick and a big shot that he boomed towards the crease. Ryan Miller stopped it high off his chest but it bounced straight up in the air and over his shoulder. Michael Ryder crashed the net, stuck his stick into the crease and gave the puck the extra help it need to break the goal line to cut the lead in half at 2:35.
The first goal was a bit of a lucky break. The second was set up by the Bruins most steady player and finished by the captain.
Johnny Boychuk, who probably has the second hardest shot on the team after Zdeno Chara, wound up for a slap shot from the right point. Patrice Bergeron was set up in the slot in front of Miller and recognized that he had Chara in the deep corner to his right with space. Boychuk’s shot stayed low and Bergeron redirected it with a touch pass straight to the one-timing stick of Chara who buried it at 9:54 to tie the game at two.
The whole period was not perfect for Boston. Milan Lucic went to retrieve the puck on the end wall, lost it off his stick straight to that of Buffalo forward Tyler Ennis who whipped it back in front to Jason Pominville who snapped a shot passed Tuukka Rask at 16:41 to retake the lead.
Through two periods the teams are tied in the shot department at 23.
|Sobotka cleared to return||03.27.10 at 11:18 am ET|
After missing Thursday’s game with a neck strain and mild concussion, Vladimir Sobotka said Saturday morning he was cleared to return to action against the Calgary Flames. The center suffered the injury when he was hit during the game in Atlanta on Tuesday night.
“It’s been evident in the last couple of games, we’ve been successful just being hard on the puck and getting there on the forecheck,” linemate Milan Lucic said. “Having him back, he’s a fast player and he’s really strong on the puck, he’s going to help being back in the lineup.”
|Morning skate notes: Bruins-Lightning||03.25.10 at 12:33 pm ET|
Do not look now, but the Bruins are actually closer to the two teams in front of them in the playoff race than the teams behind. Has the focused shifted from just trying to hang onto to a spot in the tournament to gunning down the Flyers and Canadiens?
“That has been our focus all along, you know,” Blake Wheeler said. “Nobody has really separated themselves from that pack. We understand the importance of the games we just played but we thought it was more important to get those points to move ahead in the standings because we have an opportunity to move up each game and that is our focus, game to game.”
Boston now stands one point behind the free falling Flyers, two behind the Montreal and only five back of Ottawa for the seventh, sixth and fifth spots in the conference. If the Bruins could manage to jump up to the sixth slot they would likely face Buffalo (as the third division winner), a matchup that would be the most favorable of all the options circling the top of the Eastern Conference.
Moving up in the conference is contingent on one thing that has eluded the Bruins thus far in the season — consistency. Can the Bruins take the positive effort from the last two games and apply it to the Lightning Thursday then the Flames and Sabres on Saturday and Monday?
“It is always one of those situations the way our team has been this year that we haven’t been able to get the consistency that we wanted,” coach Claude Julien said. “These last two games have certainly been a step in the right direction but you have to build a little more momentum before you can make that assessment, I guess. There is another challenge for us tonight.”
Notes from the morning skate:
Vladimir Sobotka took a nasty hit into the boards from the Thrashers’ Evgeny Artyukhin on Tuesday and sustained a head/neck injury that Julien said was not a concussion but there was not date set for the center’s return.
“There is never a timetable for injuries like [Sobotka’s], but he is better today,” Julien said. “So hopefully we will know more about his situation by tomorrow.”
Veteran center Trent Whitfield has been recalled from Providence to step in the Sobotka’s place on the line with Milan Lucic and Miroslav Satan.
“I think that [Whitfield] is certainly a guy that can make plays and is a hard worker and, again, that is the way we put it this morning and we could change it tonight,” Julien said. “I though Steve Begin played one of his better games on Tuesday and he is another guy who can go in that spot if we need to and we will kind of feel our way through this one tonight.”
Whitfield just hopes he can continue on the good work that Sobotka had been doing in recent games before the injury.
“I just hope that I am not disruptive,” Whitfield said. “He had been playing pretty well the last few weeks and I just want to go out there and work hard and get them the puck and hopefully maybe we can score a goal and get play a good, solid game.”
There has been nothing fancy about the Sobotka line. Straight dump and chase, active on the forecheck and in the neutral zone type of hockey.
“That is my kind of line. I play a pretty straight up and down kind of game too,” Whitfield said. “Just get it in deep, get the puck to the net and get to the net. Get a couple ugly ones and maybe a nice one. Who knows?”
— Andrew Ference signed a three-year contract extension yesterday. Julien weighed in on what he thinks of keeping the blue liner around for the next few years.
“He has been a pretty reliable defenseman when he has played for us and it is good for him that he has come to an agreement,” Julien said. “He has good experience back there and he is also a good leader and again, barring injury he has been nothing but dependable.”
— Tuukka Rask was the first goaltender off the ice at TD Garden which will make him the probable starter on Thursday night. Matt Hunwick and Brad Marchand both skated for a little extra time than the rest of the team which is a good indicator that they will be healthy scratches come game time.
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