BOSTON – It was the perfect way for the Boston Bruins to head into the playoffs and for Tyler Seguin to cap his breakout sophomore season.
Seguin scored two goals, including one that was part of a rally from two goals down in the third period, and Patrice Bergeron's goal in the shootout pushed the Bruins past the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 at TD Garden on Saturday.
With his two goals, Seguin beat out teammate Brad Marchand, who also scored against Buffalo, for the team lead, 29-28. Seguin also padded his point total to 67, best on the team -- and made him the youngest player in Boston's history to lead the squad in scoring.
"It's pretty amazing. It's definitely an honor," said Seguin, 20 years, two months and seven days as of Saturday. "I did not know that. Again, my linemates make the game a lot easier on me. [Marchand] and [Bergeron] with how much chemistry they have already from last year and going all the way, the same line, to the Stanley Cup championship team. They've got a lot of chemistry, so it was nice to step in that line and hopefully we can do it in the playoffs."
Bergeron slid a shot between the legs of goaltender Jhonas Enroth for the only goal in the tiebreaker, giving the Northeast Division champions 102 points. They own the second seed in the Eastern Conference entering next week's Stanley Cup Playoffs as the defending Cup champions and will play Washington in the opening round.
Boston went 9-2-1 down the stretch to build momentum before the start of the next phase of their title defense.
"I think our approach each and every game – I think we took it seriously, we worked hard, we worked within our system within our strength, and that's how we are successful and that's how we need to play heading into the playoffs," Bergeron said.
While Bergeron capped the game with his offensive talents, he made his biggest impact defensively. Both Seguin's first goal and Marchand's goal, which tied the game at 3 with 7:39 remaining in regulation, were the result of Bergeron takeaways.
Bergeron poke checked the puck away from Jason Pominville at center ice and set up Seguin's first goal 3:15 into the second period. Bergeron then knocked the puck away from Tyler Ennis in the high slot of Buffalo's zone before Marchand's goal capped Boston's rally from two down in the third period.
The veteran center finished his Selke Trophy-worthy season with the League's best plus/minus (plus-36) and the second-best faceoff percentage (59.3) by one-tenth of a percentage point to Jonathan Toews of Chicago. With three assists against the Sabres, Bergeron finished with a team-high 42.
"I keep saying, this guy shows up every day with a purpose, and if it's practice, he'll be the best practice player. If it's a game, he wants to be the best player in the game, and today was no exception," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "It would have been easy for him to throw in the towel like a lot of people do, and just say, 'I'm just going to go out there and just be OK. I don't want to get hurt. I want to make sure I’m fresh for the playoffs.' But he went out there again today, led by example, wanted to be the best player out there, and that's what you get out of him every day. Not just every game, but every day, and that's why he's such a great leader and a great example for any young player that comes into our dressing room because we've got a few of those players that are like that, and he's certainly one of the top ones."
Despite high expectations after an offseason roster overhaul, the Sabres finished shy of a playoff spot with 89 points. In helping Buffalo build a 3-1 lead in the third period, captain Jason Pominville reached the 30-goal mark for the second time in his career (he scored 34 in 2006-07). The personal achievement, however, meant little to him after the loss.
"It would have meant more if we had been in – if we had been in the playoffs and everything," said the forward. "It's a nice plateau to hit but at the same time, it's about the team. Again, it's going to be unfortunate that we're going to be on the outside looking in."
The Bruins had been locked into the No. 2 seed in the East for a week, so goaltender Tim Thomas hadn't played since last Sunday. He was tested early by a Buffalo scramble in front of the goal and kept the Sabres off the score board until Brad Boyes' first of two goals at 15:45 of the second period. Boyes doubled the lead at 7:02 of the third, 1:44 before Pominville's score.
For the defending Vezina and Conn Smythe winner Thomas, the battle with the Sabres served as a solid postseason tune-up.
"I can only speak for myself because I had some time off and I was ready to play. It wasn't hard to get up," he said. "I could tell the way it started off in the first period and a half. It was one of those games that could be a sleeper all night or it was just going to turn into what happened. I was ready for that and got to practice getting behind, then some tight game, then some overtime right before the playoffs."