In the third period last night, when Buffalo delivered a punch to the gut by scoring a shorthanded goal to tie the game, 1-1, the Bruins' shoulders didn't slump.
Instead, before the next faceoff, Dennis Wideman turned to point partner Zdeno Chara and delivered a message.
"Z, we've got to get one back right now," Wideman told Chara.
Thirty-two seconds after forward Daniel Paille blasted the shortie over Tim Thomas, Wideman, Chara, and the rest of the power-play boys got it back.
Wideman buzzed a shot from the point that deflected off Paille's stick, thudded off defenseman Toni Lydman, and perhaps pinged off a few more obstacles before Chuck Kobasew jammed a backhander past goalie Ryan Miller for the winning goal in last night's 2-1 victory before 17,565 at TD Banknorth Garden.
It was the first home sellout of the season as the Bruins snapped a four-game losing streak.
"It was huge. A huge goal from Chucky," said Marco Sturm, who scored Boston's first goal. "It was awesome. It was the break we needed."
What was mystifying was how Buffalo scored the four-on-five tying goal. With forward Jason Pominville serving a tripping penalty, the Sabres got numbers going in the offensive zone after Lydman dangled past a going-the-wrong-way Marc Savard, while the Bruins reacted in a head-scratching way: dropping nearly everyone into the slot.
"I don't know what happened," said Chara, who was on the ice with the rest of the No. 1 power-play unit. "Everybody collapsed around the net and we left two guys open. They made a nice play, but I don't know why all five of us collapsed. We try hard to protect the middle, but it happened again, and we have to learn from that."
On the play, Lydman pinched along the left-side wall. Thomas shifted from left to right to play a shot by Lydman, which he believed was the defenseman's only option.
Instead, Lydman winged a cross-ice pass to Paille. Thomas never saw the Buffalo forward, who snapped off a shot over the goalie. It was the third shorthanded goal the Bruins have allowed.
The Bruins, stormed all night by the aggressive Sabres (Buffalo outshot Boston, 46-22), were in danger of letting two crucial points slip away. So they couldn't afford to pull off a woe-is-me act. Instead, Boston's No. 2 power-play unit responded.
"You can't," Chara said of losing confidence. "It's 1-1, we're on the power play. What's done is done. We can't be breaking sticks and hanging heads."
While Wideman saw a shooting lane appear, Kobasew and Brandon Bochenski crashed the net, refusing to allow Miller to gain a glimpse of the puck. A bounce here, a deflection there, and suddenly Kobasew had the puck on his backhand and he scored his seventh goal, tying Sturm for the team lead.
"Backhand whack out of the air," said Wideman, who had a clear look at the score. "Not how you draw it up."
The Bruins snatched a win when their play - especially in the first half of the game - dictated otherwise. In the first period, Buffalo poured 15 shots on Thomas. In the second, it jacked up the offense even higher, putting 17 pucks on Thomas.
But Thomas, making his eighth straight start, did everything possible to keep pucks out of his net. In the second period, Thomas made three saves in succession, first stopping a point blast by Jaroslav Spacek, then blocking a pair of rebound whacks by Pominville before covering the puck.
It wasn't the way the Bruins wanted to play in front of Thomas, who made a season-high 45 saves. "Timmy was incredible," Wideman said. "Without him, it would have been real ugly."
Thomas kept it 0-0 until the Bruins ended the deadlock in the second period. Savard and Sturm broke loose for a two-on-one rush. Defenseman Brian Campbell peeled off Sturm to play Savard, who countered by flipping a saucer pass to the left wing. All Sturm had to do was tap the puck past Miller (20 saves).
"We didn't have the jump we normally have," said coach Claude Julien. "But one thing I noticed was that in the third period, guys really battled and dug deep. These two points were huge for us."