Everybody knew what to expect. Absolutely nothing.
Trailing by a pair of goals and looking flatter than a drill sergeant's haircut, the Bruins were merely trying to kill a penalty, not the Buffalo Sabres' spirits.
With Joe Thornton in the box for high-sticking and the FleetCenter crowd of 16,198 providing the only semblance of Boston energy -- a menacing crescendo of boos for its beloved home team -- Brian Rolston won a faceoff in the left circle of the Bruins zone and dropped the puck to Nick Boynton.
The All-Star defenseman followed standard operating procedure and launched the puck vigorously out of his zone.
The puck, however, followed surreal operating procedure.
Boynton had given it a little too much oomph, and it resembled a NASA launch as it ascended off the glass at center ice with such velocity that the man who supplied liftoff was concerned he might be facing a civil suit.
"I was ready to yell up to the fans, not that anyone would have heard me," said Boynton. "I got up on it a bit, and I thought it might smoke someone in the stands."
It smoked someone. Not someone in the stands but someone in a Buffalo goaltender's mask.
Martin Biron, a veteran witness to thousands of such clearing plays, was so certain of the laws of probability for this innocent little sampling of desperation defense that he had vacated the crease and was stationed in the textbook position at the end boards, ready to block the wraparound and redirect the puck Boston's way.
So the net was as empty as a Britney Spears ballad, but not for long.
The puck took a detour off the glass and headed directly toward pay dirt.
Like everyone in the stands, Boynton stared in amazement. At least he would have if he'd been watching. But on such a long-shot long shot, why bother? Only beleaguered Bruins goalie Andrew Raycroft saw the opportunity for kismet.
"I wasn't paying attention," said Boynton. "But then I heard Razor saying, `Go in. Go in,' and I thought, `Hey, I might get lucky here.' "
The puck nailed the net -- just your routine 185-foot clearing-pass goal -- triggering an outpouring of disbelief and dismay.
Biron hung his head in despair, probably wishing he could hang up his uniform for the day as well, and the Bruins rode this Halley's comet to an equally unlikely 3-2 victory on Mike Knuble's goal with 3.9 seconds left in overtime yesterday.
"One bench gets down," said Boynton. "The other gets up. It definitely switched things up."
It also crossed everybody up.
"Our whole bench was like this," said Glen Murray, his jaw dropping in illustration. "You see it sometimes, but I've never experienced it. If you gave me 100 bucks, I couldn't do it. It certainly changed the game."
And it altered a rather luckless afternoon for Boynton. All he had to show for the first period was a roiling stomach and a nasty red welt under his left eye.
The former occurred barely a minute into the game, just after Boynton had rearranged the planets for Buffalo's Dmitri Kalinin with a crunching check. Once Kalinin regained his bearings, he utilized his stick as a scalpel on Boynton's midsection, somehow escaping a spearing penalty but provoking a fight that earned both antagonists five-minute majors.
Boynton again needed time off the ice some five minutes later when he blocked a Derek Roy shot, then wished he hadn't as the puck creased his cheek just under the eye.
Boynton went immediately to the bench, but didn't linger there. After the game, he reported no vision problems or swelling, though he will be reexamined today.
"I just didn't feel right the rest of the shift," he said. "I wasn't going to be any help."
But his return was eminently worthwhile.
"I told Nick, `That's the best assist I've ever had,' " said Rolston.
It may not have been Boynton's best goal, but it was his most incomparable.
"That would be the first and probably the last 185-footer I've scored," he said. "It's one of those goals you never expect to score and can't believe it when you do."
Thank goodness for the Bruins nobody taught the kid how to clear the puck without incident.