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Veteran proving to be Boston's game-breaker

by John McGourty
BOSTON -- The problem with heroes is they're often modest about their accomplishments. Just when you want someone to brag about their success, they praise their defeated opponent and downplay their own efforts.

Mark Recchi was the Boston Bruins' hero Monday night in their 2-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres that gave Boston a 2-1 series lead in their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series.

Recchi won a footrace with young Buffalo forward Tim Kennedy and then tossed him on his backside as they approached the puck behind the Buffalo net. With Kennedy down and 10 feet away, the "Wrecking Ball" put a pinpoint pass on Patrice Bergeron's stick. Bergeron had dumped the puck in from the neutral zone, setting up the mano a mano battle.

Bergeron rifled a snap shot past Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller at 12:57 of the third period for the go-ahead goal, and the Bruins held tight defensively the rest of the way.

Recchi, 42, was as modest as the media would let him be in victory, but his teammates and coach had great things to say about him. Recchi is the NHL's leading active scorer with 563 goals and 922 assists for 1,485 points in 1,571 games. He was a point-per-game player until his late 30s.

Recchi was one of Pittsburgh's heroes in its 1991 Stanley Cup championship and was a late and important addition to the champion 2006 Carolina Hurricanes.

The assist was his 74th in Stanley Cup Playoff games and he has 52 goals for 126 points in 154 postseason games.

Recchi is recognized as a class act around the League, and after the game he was careful with what he said about Kennedy, just the latest victim in Recchi's 22-year NHL career.

"He's a competitive guy and I just happened to get the better of him on that one," Recchi said. "I had pretty good position on him. Being able to keep control of the puck is really what made the play."

"He just won the battle and he saw 'Bergy' coming full speed and made a great play there and 'Bergy' doesn’t usually miss those," said Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, another of the Bruins' heroes. "He likes to bury the puck and he really hit it hard and got it through."

"You can’t say more about that guy," said rookie defenseman Johnny Boychuk, who devastated Buffalo's Matt Ellis with an open-ice hit in the second period. "He's one of our leaders, one of our key players. Having him in the dressing room really helps us. You can't tell that he is 42 the way he plays. He plays like he is 25. Unbelievable, that guy."
"Without a doubt, that was a huge play at that time in the game," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "He out-muscled his way in there and made that great pass to Bergeron. I thought that our team overall played hard tonight and it was only fitting that something like that would happen."

"He doesn't surprise me," Bergeron said. "He's been doing that all year and last year when he came to us. He's been doing that his whole career. He's a great player and I'm happy to have a chance to play with him. And I'm learning every time I step on the ice with him."

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