Boston -- Perhaps motivated to prove to the NHL that their team would not roll over, and that one or two of its members have been playing like deserving All-Stars, David slew Goliath -- make that Boston defeated Buffalo, 3-2, in a shootout in what could be termed as a pre-game paper mismatch.
"I thought it was a good effort the whole game," said Bruins head coach Dave Lewis. "Our guys worked hard.
"It was funny how that one goal in the shootout (though) made such a big difference."
The Bruins, who came in having lost six of seven, earned what could be characterized as their most important win of the season over the Eastern Conference best Buffalo Sabres in front of a healthy crowd of Black & Gold clad supporters at the TD Banknorth Garden on Monday afternoon.
"We had 20 guys on a mission tonight," said Bruins forward Marc Savard
. "We got the job done."
To start, the game was a shootout in the traditional sense, and in the first period both Boston and Buffalo traded two goals apiece.
The Bruins Savard scored his 17th of the season, on the power play, at 3:23 (from Zdeno Chara
, Patrice Bergeron
). Then, the Sabres Derek Roy scored his 7th at 5:57 and Jochen Hecht his 12th at 9:17 (from former BU Captain, Chris Drury).
"Our power play hadn't had (a goal) in a couple of games, so it was good to get one tonight," said Savard of his goal.
When Buffalo's goalie mishandled a shot, P.J. Axelsson scored his eighth marker of the season at 19:59 (Brad Stuart, Glen Murray) to tie the game in the last second of play in the period.
"That was big for us," said a victorious Tim Thomas
, post game. "(Ryan) Miller was already making some big saves for them, keeping them in the game."
And the last second goal seemed to give the Bruins a shot of needed confidence.
Despite the four goals in the first period, however, both goaltenders stood tall and the game began to take on the characteristics of a goaltending clinic.
Thomas made 11 saves in the second stanza, while Buffalo's Miller made seven -- one of which was a highlight reel paddle save off of Paul Mara who took a Marc Savard
pass and looked to deposit it behind Miller, but was stopped in spectacular fashion.
"To overcome a hot, all-star goalie, and still get the win, that's big," said Thomas, of Miller, after the contest.
There was an up-tick in physical play, as well, as Buffalo's Andrew Peters, annoyed with the B's Andrew Alberts and his consistent hitting of the speedy Sabres forwards, took on the B's young defenseman in some ice bound fisticuffs.
None of the violence was channeled into scoring, however, and the game remained tied at 2-2 at the beginning of the second intermission.
Thomas was tested consistently in the third stanza as the talented Sabres began to look for a chink in the Bruins armor. But Thomas was up to the task and matched Miller save after save (Thomas ended the game with 34, Miller with 35).
Both goaltenders kept the score static throughout the period and the game went to sudden death overtime. And both teams threw everything they had at the extra session and both goalies, again, came up big and the game went to a shootout.
Thomas handled all three shots in the shootout as he stopped Daniel Briere, Ales Kotalik and Thomas Vanek to secure the win after Boston's Marco Sturm scored the lone shootout tally.
"It's something that we have to continue to do on a nightly basis," said Thomas. "I don't want to take too much of the celebration out of this, but we have to prepared to do this every night.
"That's the situation we're in."
Tim's right, it doesn't get any easier. The Bruins travel to Western New York tomorrow to face the Sabres in Buffalo on Wednesday.