Boston goalie Tim Thomas
and forward Petr Tenkrat were the Bruins heroes on Saturday night, but only after the Buffalo Sabres had come back to tie the game, 3-3, in the second period. The contest eventually needed to be decided by a shootout and Thomas made eight saves in the penalty shot contest (on top of his 22 stops during the regular game) and Tenkrat's seeing-eye shot dribbled through Buffalo's all-star starting goalie, Ryan Miller, to make the final, 4-3.
"You know, it was a real gutsy effort," said Bruins head coach Dave Lewis. "We battled and battled hard.
"Timmy was fabulous in the shootout and it's a great two points for us."
Set up by several tough periods of hockey between these two squads this season, it was a very physical game in a sold out HSBC Arena in Buffalo and the Bruins and the Sabres came out swinging with two fights in the first period.
B's forward Jeremy Reich and Sabres forward Adam Mair did a little waltz initially, and later in the same period, new Boston defenseman Andrew Ference
and Buffalo forward Jochen Hecht tap-danced, as well.
"(Ference) has been great," said Lewis. "He got into a fight tonight, he (killed some) 5-on-3's, and he's doing everything."
"It's great to see a new guy like that fit in so well."
Observers gave the Bruins boxers wins on points in both on ice brouhahas, but those fights were sandwiched around goals by the Bruins Marco Sturm, who pinballed a puck by Sabres starter Miller at 3:59 and the Sabres Drew Stafford, who beat Boston's Thomas at 14:13 to knot the game at 1-1 going into the first break.
Boston regained control of the game, however, when Shean Donovan put the Bruins on top, 3-1. Donovan took a pass from defenseman Bobby Allen and powered it past Miller at 10:12. Then, with the Bruins shorthanded, he fed Marc Savard
with a beautiful pass, which Savard neatly deposited behind the Buffalo goalie at 13:43.
But Buffalo co-captain, and Bruins killer, Chris Drury, who was aided by some ill-timed Bruins penalties, initiated another Sabres comeback when, on the power play, he fired a puck through Thomas and made the score, 3-2, going into the final minutes of the middle stanza.
Following the Drury goal, Thomas, playing another outstanding game in goal for Boston, looked to have stopped the blue and gold's momentum dead when he made a beautiful paddle save on Daniel Briere late in the period.
And with that, the Black & Gold went to the locker room up, 3-2.
Or did they?
A replay showed that Briere had actually scored on the power play, at 19:08.
The Bruins, who according to NESN's Rob Simpson, had been told to go to their locker room for intermission, were made to come back out of the tunnel and finish the period after a lengthy delay.
When play resumed, however, the offence did not.
Despite plenty of scoring chances for both teams, both goaltenders kept their nets clear, and there were no goals in either the third period or the overtime session.
As such, the game went to penalty shots tied, 3-3.
Thomas shut out the Sabres through eight rounds and Tenkrat earned the extra point for Boston when Miller was unable to corral his bid.
"It sure is nerve wracking being in all of those shootouts," said a relieved Thomas after the game. "But then, on the other hand, it was nice coming out on top."
Clearly, the Bruins knew who their biggest player was on this night.
"(With) Tank (Thomas) in the net," said Savard, "I don't think there is any net to shoot at.
"When I look down there from the bench, I don't see any holes."
The Bruins next play Monday in Philadelphia versus the Flyers.