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Miller's 38 saves help Sabres edge Bruins in opener

by John McGourty
BUFFALO, N.Y.  -- Both the Buffalo Sabres and the Boston Bruins came away from Game 1 of their Eastern Conference series with things they liked about the game.

Of course, the Sabres liked the 2-1 victory in their own building, the HSBC Arena, in the first Stanley Cup Playoff game between the Northeast Division rivals since 1999. Buffalo won that second-round series en route to the Stanley Cup Final they lost to the Dallas Stars. The host Sabres won this season's Northeast Division, finishing nine points ahead of the Bruins, last year's division champs.

The Sabres liked the toughness they showed -- and they loved the outstanding play of linemates Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek, whose goal at 4:52 of the first period gave the Sabres a 1-0 lead. Roy grabbed the puck along the right boards in his own zone, broke through the neutral zone, paralyzed Matt Hunwick with a fake, went around him and into the offensive zone before dropping a pass for Vanek at the top of the right circle. Vanek, who had four goals last Saturday and another on Sunday, wristed a shot past Tuukka Rask's right side.


"I knew (Patrice) Bergeron was trying to chip it to the point, so I tipped the puck and beat my defenseman," Roy said. "I didn't even see Thomas until the last second when I was about to shoot it. That's where communication comes into play. He yelled out and I looked back and saw him and laid it out for him and he made a nice shot."

"Bergeron and I battled a little bit and I tipped it to Roy," Vanek said. "I beat Bergeron up the ice. I yelled pretty loud at Derek, he dropped it and it went in, fortunately."

The Bruins liked their ability to put Buffalo on the run with a 24-shot barrage in the second period -- but they were frustrated by their inability to get more than one puck past Sabres goalie Ryan Miller, who made 38 saves. The Bruins had only six shots in the third period.

"I thought we played well in the second period," Julien said. "Obviously, we didn't get that second goal. ... We still had time to get back into it. Unfortunately, we found ourselves in the box in the third period and it made it hard to get momentum.

"We played hard enough. We played well enough but that's the game of hockey: Only one team is going to come out of here with a win."

Ruff wasn't thrilled with his team's second-period play. Roy said Ruff ran a clinic during the second intermission.

"We definitely went over some things that we needed to improve on in the third period after the second period," Roy said.

"We had a great first period and a great third but we got running a bit in the second period," Ruff said. "We did break down. The good part was we didn't give up the breakaways and the odd-man situations.

"The answer is how well you can play the next period and I thought we put that behind us. We talked about a few adjustments to make sure the third period was a strong period.

I thought we needed to take a deep breath and get ourselves back together. We were starting to run around looking for hits. We didn't want puck possession. That's OK -- but the puck's important too, sometimes."

The Bruins also liked the strong play of Rask, the rookie goalie who led the NHL this season in lowest goals-against average and highest save percentage. Miller was the runner-up in both categories.

"He made some huge saves," Julien said of Rask, who made 30 saves. "He gave us a chance."

The Sabres also loved Tim Kennedy's gritty play in the Boston zone just before he fed captain Craig Rivet a short pass that Rivet took down the right wing before blasting a shot from the right circle past Rask to put Buffalo ahead to stay at 14:10 of the second period. Two Bruins converged on Kennedy and he made the pass as he was being pushed to the ice.

"I thought it was a great play by Kennedy and a heck of a shot," Ruff said. "Those are the answers you need when things aren't going well."

Ruff also credited Patrick Kaleta for going to the net and creating a screen in front of Rask. Rivet said he knew Rask was screened when he fired the 30-foot slap shot. It was his first playoff goal since 2007 and only the fourth of his career.

"Where he shot it from, we could see from the bench that Tuukka couldn't see it," Julien said. "He was screened. It definitely was a good goal, top corner."

Rask agreed that he didn't get a look at the shot.

"He went out of my vision there," Rask said. "I saw him winding up but then I lost it. It was a tough goal but it was a good shot."

That goal took the wind out of Boston's midgame rally, which included Mark Recchi's game-tying goal at 9:30 of the second period. Chara's second shot within 10 seconds from the blue line rebounded past Bergeron to Recchi, who used his linemate as a screen to put a shot over Miller's right arm.

Both teams expect the series to have a strong physical edge and they and the fans weren't disappointed. A little more than 10 minutes after the opening goal, the Bruins and Sabres engaged in a 10-man scrum behind the Boston net, a battle that followed a pair of checks-from-behind.
Moments after the Buffalo crowd cheered Vanek's check from behind on Blake Wheeler in the Buffalo zone, they booed when Bruins captain Chara returned the favor, dumping Kaleta behind the Bruins net. Buffalo's Raffi Torres grabbed Chara after the whistle and was driven into the end boards. Buffalo's Toni Lydman cross-checked Milan Lucic, who dropped his stick and punched Lydman. Lydman punched back but wouldn't drop his stick. Kaleta then hit Chara, who hit back. Johnny Boychuk wrestled Adam Mair to the ice but neither man was penalized.

Chara got roughing and cross-checking minors. Lucic got a pair of roughing minors. Lydman, Torres and Steve Montador were called for roughing -- and Kaleta got a 10-minute misconduct.

With a one-goal lead, the Sabres tightened up defensively in the third period, permitting six shots and no goals. Miller made a good save on former Sabres forward Miroslav Satan at 9:42 during 4-on-4 play. The Bruins also hurt themselves with a pair of late penalties that kept them on the penalty kill down the stretch.

"We were a little slow in the second period," Miller said, "but we came out in the third and played a lot better. We played a pretty smart period."

Shift of the game
: The game was scoreless when Derek Roy picked up a puck in his own end, started up the right wing, stepped around Bruins defenseman Matt Hunwick in the neutral zone, crossed the blue line and dropped a pass to Thomas Vanek, who was behind him and to his left. Vanek rifled a shot from the right circle past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask's right side for the first goal of the game at 4:52 of the first period.

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