This was not a night when a hockey story unfolded around a game; it was a night when an emotional, tragic, heart-wrenching, yet uplifting story about a wounded city and country unfolded around a hockey game.
They call it Boston Strong.
Boston was strong -- in every sense of the phrase -- Wednesday night at TD Garden, epitomizing the spirit that has indelibly linked those words together since the previously unthinkable occurred on Monday at the end of a 26.2-mile journey called the Boston Marathon. In Boston, like nowhere else, the day of the marathon is one filled with joy, but festive feelings were shattered after two bombs exploded at the finish line, killing three and injuring nearly 200 more.
The Bruins and Buffalo Sabres indeed took the ice to play a hockey game that lasted two hours and 36 minutes from the opening faceoff until Drew Stafford put the shootout winner past Anton Khudobin for a 3-2 Sabres victory.
The teams combined for four goals, 75 shots and seven penalties totaling 16 minutes through 65 minutes of thrilling, therapeutic hockey. Stafford scored the only goal in the shootout.
But the statistical combinations and the shootout winner meant very little in the grand scheme of what on Wednesday night was a sign of healing in the city of Boston.
What mattered were the 17,565 people lucky enough to have a seat inside TD Garden that sang the Star-Spangled Banner together as one voice for one nation.
"It was a pretty emotional start," Ference said. "I think me and [Dennis Seidenberg] were over besides each other, especially during the anthem, I think just trying to hold it together a bit. It was pretty awesome hearing everybody sing like that. And obviously the emotions were pretty high."
What mattered were the 40 hockey players who after the game skated to the middle of the ice and raised their sticks in a proud salute to the crowd, to the hockey world, to the country.
"It was a no-brainer for everyone, I think on both sides, and I think it was the perfect way to end the game," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said according to the team's website.
What mattered was, according to a story by Yahoo!, the Bruins players taking roughly 80 first-responders out for drinks to a bar a few blocks from the arena.
These were the people that ran toward the tragedy seconds after the bombs went off. The Bruins invited them to the game and honored them on the big screen.
Every fan stood and applauded. Some cheered loudly and chanted "USA, USA, USA." Some probably had to wipe tears from their eyes.
The players banged their sticks on the boards or tapped them on the ice -- the ultimate sign of respect from hockey player to hockey player, or in this case, from hockey player to hero.
"It just shows that the people of Boston are so united and so strong," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said according to the team's website. "It makes you proud to be a Bostonian, proud to be a Boston Bruin."
The Bruins didn't win, but it sure looked like Boston did.
"We feel like the fans deserved it [Wednesday night] and we couldn't get it done for them so it's hard right now to feel like you've won because they deserved better," Bergeron said. "But the city is a winner, for sure. That's for sure. The fans, everyone -- it was something very special to be part of."