Bruins: Buffalo Sabres

Rapid Reaction: Sabres 3, Bruins 2 (OT)

April, 17, 2013

BOSTON -- On an emotional night at TD Garden, the Bruins and their fans stood together as one to honor the Boston Marathon bombing victims. But while the Bruins were able to clinch a playoff spot with a point and tie Montreal for first place in the Northeast Division, their late-game struggles continued as they allowed a Sabres power-play goal with just 26.6 seconds left in regulation and lost 3-2 in a shootout.

BruinsSabresAfter Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference took a delay of game penalty with 48.8 seconds left in regulation, Sabres center Cody Hodgson tied the game to force overtime. Drew Stafford then won the game in the shootout as he beat Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin, who stopped the first two Buffalo shooters and made 30 saves for the game. Thomas Vanek had the first Buffalo goal.

Ryan Miller was a wall for the Sabres, making 41 saves and stopping all three Boston attempts in the shootout. Only Chris Kelly and Daniel Paille could solve Miller for the Bruins.

Bruins honor bombing victims throughout night: The Bruins and TD Garden did a fantastic and touching job of honoring the victims of the marathon bombings. Both teams wore "Boston Strong" decals on their helmets, and a pregame tribute video set the tone. Rene Rancourt started the national anthem and then handed over the singing to the 17,565 fans in attendance, who faithfully obliged in the most stirring rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" this scribe has ever witnessed.

Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs also pledged to donate $100,000 on behalf of the entire Bruins organization to the recently established "The One Fund Boston" charity designed to raise money to help families most affected by the events at the Boston Marathon. TD Garden was lit in yellow and blue, the colors of the Boston Marathon, and two dasher boards had The One Fund logo. A special "B-Spoked Salute" took place during the second intermission to honor first responders. Bruins forward Brad Marchand will raffle his suite for the Bruins' first home playoff game, with all proceeds to benefit the family of Martin Richard, 8, of Dorchester, who was killed in the bombings.

Paille and Kelly connect: As stated here before, Paille is this team's unsung hero. But more and more, Paille is starting to prove that his offensive skills may have been underrated. He scored his ninth goal of the season Wednesday and then fed Kelly for the Bruins' second goal, putting them up 2-1 late in the second period. Kelly's and Paille's two-way versatility and speed complement each other nicely, and it won't be surprising if they play on the same line a lot more.

Ference's nightmare season continues: This has not been the season Ference needed heading into unrestricted free agency. The Bruins rear guard has been a turnover machine on defense, not at all resembling the steady presence of years past. But his delay of game penalty with 48.8 seconds left had to be his toughest mistake of the season, as it led to the brutal overtime defeat. On an emotional night, with the Bruins about to snap a two-game losing streak, that mistake couldn't have come at a worse time.

Khudobin gets the nod: Khudobin made his first start in a week since allowing four goals in a 5-4 win at New Jersey April 10. That was not a great night for Khudobin, but he rebounded nicely in this game. He continues to show he can handle a strong workload. While he wasn't tested as much as he has been in the past, he still made the saves he needs to make.

Julien does more line shuffling: With the return of Patrice Bergeron and Marchand up front, Julien shuffled the lines again. Bergeron and Marchand were reunited with Tyler Seguin, but most notable in the forward lines was that Milan Lucic was on the fourth line with Rich Peverley and Shawn Thornton, and Nathan Horton was on the third line with Kelly and Paille. This wasn't the first time Lucic has been demoted, but Horton has seemed to get plenty of slack as he tried to find his game again and it appears Julien's patience has run out. Julien also reunited Czech national team linemates David Krejci and Jaromir Jagr on a line with Gregory Campbell. On the blue line, Wade Redden made his Bruins debut and Matt Bartkowski sat up top as the healthy scratch. Here's what the lineup looked like to start the game:

Gregory Campbell-David Krejci-Jaromir Jagr
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Tyler Seguin
Daniel Paille-Chris Kelly-Nathan Horton
Milan Lucic-Rich Peverley-Shawn Thornton

Zdeno Chara-Johnny Boychuk
Wade Redden-Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference-Dougie Hamilton

Anton Khudobin
Tuukka Rask

Sabres know tonight will be emotional

April, 17, 2013
BOSTON – The Boston Bruins are hosting the first professional sporting event in Boston since Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon. Their opponent knows exactly what to expect tonight at TD Garden.

The Buffalo Sabres suffered their own kind of tragedy on Feb. 12, 2009, when a plane crashed near Buffalo and killed 50 people. The following night, the Sabres hosted the San Jose Sharks and won 6-5 in overtime.

“It was a tough situation. We came in and played the next day and it was almost like a type of game where you knew the crowd would be into it,” explained Sabres assistant captain Drew Stafford at Wednesday’s morning skate. “Emotions were running pretty high then, too, and I obviously expect the same type of thing going out there tonight. It’s really hard to explain, it’s tough to put into words, but we know there’s going to be a lot of emotion involved. We know what to expect. We’re ready for it.”

The Sabres arrived at the Garden just before 10:30 a.m. with a police escort of a dozen motorcycles. The team had been in town on Tuesday and some of the Sabres players walked down Boylston Street to get a sense of what happened. Among that group was former Boston College standout Nathan Gerbe, who played for the Eagles from 2005 to 2008.

“To go down there and see everything, it sends a sick feeling in your stomach, knowing what happened there and the people that were injured, and also for the families who go through the tragedy. It’s terrible and we always send our prayers. Just to see it, it’s something else.”

Normally for any opposing team, playing the Bruins at the Garden is a hostile environment. When the puck drops Wednesday night, however, the atmosphere will be different.

“Obviously there’s going to be a lot of emotion out there tonight,” Stafford said. “You can’t really put into words everything that happened, it’s just surreal. It definitely puts things into perspective that this is just a game and there are more important things. We’re just trying to do our best to keep those emotions in check and at the same time put out a quality product for the fans if they want to come and be entertained.”

From a security standpoint, the Buffalo players said they feel safe and protected coming into a building that seats 17,565, but there will be a sense of anxiety.

“There is a little bit of concern there, but we know with the extra security, the police force, the FBI and everyone that’s been involved in this has done an amazing job of making sure that everyone feels safe,” Stafford said. “They’re telling everyone that there are no worries for anything else and we’re protected. At the same time, we’re trying our best to focus on going out and being ready for a big game. It’s going to be highly emotional. There are no worries at all about any lack of protection. They’re doing a great job making sure everyone feels safe.”

During his college days in this city, Gerbe attended a few marathons and knows the area well. He understands what it’s like to play in Boston on a normal day, never mind on a night when the entire world will be watching the Bruins and their fans.
“I know it’s going to be a great crowd, they’re going to show how proud they are to be from Boston and they’re going to stand up and show their faith, so I’m excited. I know it’s devastating what happened here, everyone around the league feels it and we feel for the families.

“We know their emotion is going to be high, but ours is also high. We feel for the victims. We feel for the families that have been injured. We’re people and this is a game we all love and this is a chance for us to put on a good show and hopefully let the people of Boston know that we’re trying to take their minds off the real world.”