Bruins' win ousts Sabres

Buffalo Sabres' Ryan Miller gets a glove on the puck behind Boston Bruins' Blake Wheeler. (QMI...

Buffalo Sabres' Ryan Miller gets a glove on the puck behind Boston Bruins' Blake Wheeler. (QMI Agency)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:54 PM ET

BOSTON — In a series where the difference between two hard-headed teams was mostly hair-splitting through 20 periods, it is the Bruins who will keep growing their playoff beards.

In the end, the Buffalo Sabres could not capitalize on their strengths; home-ice advantage, an more experienced goalie, better firepower, special teams and what had been an impregnable game plan when ahead by two periods (30-0). The Bruins’ 4-3 win on home ice gave them the series in six games, during which 458 combined hits were thrown and five of six games were decided by two goals or less, just like the six in regular season.

“It was a tough season where no one expected us to do a lot,” said David Krejci, Monday night’s offensive hero for the sixth-seeded Bruins with two goals and an assist. “So it feels good to have proven everybody wrong.”

Boston moves on to face an unknown opponent and will likely be the underdog again.

“Who cares?,” said smiling rookie goaltender Tuukka Rask, whose dream season now includes beating Vezina Trophy candidate Ryan Miller of the Sabres. “We don’t think about (the razor-thin margin in this series), we just know how good we can be.”

Lindy Ruff, coach of the third-seeded Sabres, didn’t have to look far for reasons his team failed to advance in its first playoff trip in three years. His power play was frustrated again on three tries Monday to go 0-for-19 in the series. Thomas Vanek had a point in all three games he played, including Monday’s brave comeback, but missed three games when chopped down with an ankle injury in

Game 2. Tim Connolly was nowhere to be seen on the scoreboard and combined with fellow offensive centre Derek Roy for three points in the series.

But the worst part had to be trailing 3-2 in games coming back here with the Bruins having led for just 20 minutes in the series. And Buffalo’s five-game monopoly on breaking the ice ended with the first of Krejci’s two goals, the first of a pair of Boston power-play conversions.

“There wasn’t breathing space this whole series,” Ruff said. “They definitely had the edge (in special teams). We had a chance in Game 2 and Game 4 (double overtime) to grab the series and didn’t. Our top two centres struggled. I’d be hard-pressed to say that some of our (veteran) guys didn’t get outplayed by our young guys.”

The Bruins still had to fend off furious comebacks by Buffalo in the third period, twice seeing their two-goal lead halved on goals by Vanek and Nathan Gerbe, as the Sabres also killed a four-minute minor to Adam Mair. With 1:13 to play, Vanek justified his return to the lineup with his seventh goal in four games going back to the regular season.

Rask made 27 saves, but had to be alert for own-zone errors through this series, as Patrick Kaleta and Gerbe capitalized.

The Bruins had been so anxious to get out on the ice and plug into the sellout crowd at TD Garden that they were bumping up behind the on-ice officials at the gate, long before the Sabres emerged.

They threw 20 hits to Buffalo’s nine in the first. Krejci wasn’t the only Bruin finding the range as 42-year-old Recchi had a goal and assist (his 75th career playoff helper).

Even with the slightly gimpy Vanek playing 2:53 of power-play time amid 16:32 overall, Boston’s two power-play goals improved it to 6-for-20 entering the third.

Mirroring Connolly’s quiet playoff, Marco Sturm and Milan Lucic had not picked up a point in the series before Monday and coach Claude Julien changed around their assignments.

Lucic was put with his third different set of the series and responded with two assists including Miro Satan’s eventual winner.

“It was a good series,” Julien said. “The big difference was we came from behind in a lot of games, doing something nobody had done against Buffalo all season.”


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