Double espresso? Red Bull? How else to explain the caffeinated cacophony of craziness and scoring that took place last night at TD Banknorth Garden?
The hopped-up Bruins, once known as a defense-first club under the trapping structure of coach Claude Julien, saw the Sabres pump three first-period shots past Manny Fernandez before five minutes had ticked off the game clock.
Without blinking, the Bruins responded by blasting three shots past goalie Ryan Miller in the first (Chuck Kobasew, David Krejci, Marc Savard), three more in the second (Zdeno Chara, Kobasew, Chara), and one more for a cherry on top at 1:16 of the third (Phil Kessel).
After Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff had finally seen enough and pulled his frazzled starter in favor of Patrick Lalime after the seventh strike, Miller retired to the bench and flung away his unlucky equipment, his once-proud numbers (2.22 goals-against average, .922 save percentage entering the game) torn to shreds by an unrelenting Boston offense.
Yep, just your average 7-4 shootout in the new NHL, featuring a trigger-happy Boston attack, a stinker of a start from Miller, and a turnstile Buffalo defense that was waving 'em in faster than Wendell Kim.
While the Sabres stunk out the joint for the better part of the first 40 minutes, the Bruins weren't much better in the first 20. There was the defensive-zone cough-up by Michael Ryder. A faceoff loss by Savard. An inability to keep the Sabres out of the danger areas.
The result: a first-period Buffalo firestorm that saw an under-assault Fernandez fish four pucks out of his net, hardly to blame for any of the goals.
"We didn't have the start to the game that we wanted, that's for sure," said Chara. "They came out really hard and I thought we were kind of flat. But every time they scored, it was a good thing that we scored to stop the momentum they had. We were down one goal after the first, but we kept pressing and eventually got some goals on the power play."
Where Buffalo's shoddy first-period play stretched into the second, the Bruins cleansed the yips from their games to seal off the Sabres. So what was once a 4-2 Buffalo lead in the first period had vanished with a poof and become a 7-4 Boston advantage as the Bruins scored five unanswered goals on Miller.
Chara tied the score at 2:37 of the second with a power-play one-timer. Kobasew netted the winner at 12:31 of the second with a bank job from behind the goal line off Miller and defenseman Henrik Tallinder. Chara made it 6-4 with another power-play bomb, then Kessel cashed in a Milan Lucic feed to chase Miller.
At the other end, Fernandez, who stopped only 10 of 14 first-period attempts, turned aside all 15 shots he saw over the last 40 minutes.
In the aftermath, the Bruins emerged with some numbers that belong in an Xbox game. One goal and three assists for Savard, giving him 600 NHL points. A 3-point night for Krejci (one goal, two assists). Two assists for Patrice Bergeron, good for career points 200 and 201. Six shots and two power-play goals for Chara. Five players (Krejci, Dennis Wideman, Kobasew, Blake Wheeler, Matt Hunwick) with plus-3 ratings.
"What I liked about the team tonight is that as the game went on, we got better," said Julien. "We got back to our type of game. I thought we controlled the third period pretty well."
The Bruins played their first game of the season without Marco Sturm, who was shelved with an upper-body injury. Kobasew replaced Sturm on the third line and on the No. 1 power-play unit. Petteri Nokelainen, a healthy scratch for the last five games, skated on the fourth line.
In the second period, during Boston's first power play, Buffalo defenseman Toni Lydman flattened Wideman with a clean shoulder-to-kisser hit. As Wideman got to his skates, he wobbled and nearly tumbled backward into the boards. Wideman was met at the bench by trainer Don DelNegro, who helped the defenseman return to the dressing room for examination. Wideman was in the room for approximately three minutes of play, examined by team doctor Thomas Gill, before he returned to the bench. Wideman played a total of 22:34.
"Little bit of the rubber legs going there for a bit," said Wideman.
It was determined that Wideman hadn't suffered a concussion. Instead, the headaches were limited to the Sabres.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.