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.
After 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.
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
Wade Redden-Dennis Seidenberg
Andrew Ference-Dougie Hamilton