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Sabres 3, Bruins 2

Net loss for Bruins

Thomas gets pulled; Miller saves Sabres

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask bent over backward to keep Drew Stafford and the Sabres at bay, with help from Steve Begin and Mark Stuart in the second period. Rask did not allow a goal and made 19 saves in relief of Tim Thomas. Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask bent over backward to keep Drew Stafford and the Sabres at bay, with help from Steve Begin and Mark Stuart in the second period. Rask did not allow a goal and made 19 saves in relief of Tim Thomas. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / March 30, 2010

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For approximately five minutes, after his coach gave him the hook at 6:08 of the second period, Tim Thomas disappeared into the hallway before returning to the bench.

“When you get angry,’’ Thomas said, “you’ve got to take a few minutes to settle down.’’

A goalie is often a reflection of the team in front of him. Last night held to that rule, with two first-period pucks ticking off Dennis Wideman before finding their way past Thomas, and the last goal coming off boo-boos by Dennis Seidenberg.

But ultimately, as the player most responsible for goal prevention, the goalie is held accountable when too many pucks slip past him. And even if some bad bounces took place before Buffalo’s goals, Thomas couldn’t make timely saves.

So on Buffalo’s 14th shot, the winning attempt in last night’s 3-2 loss to the Sabres before 17,565 at TD Garden, Thomas suffered the indignity of making the long skate to the bench in what might have been his final home appearance of 2009-10.

“You’d like to stay in the game and battle it out,’’ Thomas said. “It’s no fun getting pulled.’’

Before last night’s loss, Tuukka Rask had started all four games against the Sabres, going 3-1-0 with a 1.72 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage. But with Thomas coming off a 5-0 shutout of Calgary Saturday and a road match tonight against New Jersey, Julien’s plan was to go back with the veteran and start Rask vs. the Devils.

It didn’t work.

“No. 1, he was extremely good,’’ Julien said of Thomas’s play against the Flames. “No. 2, when we looked at the schedule as a coaching staff, having back-to-back games and the way Tim played, we thought we’d have ourselves two fresh goaltenders on both nights, knowing the importance of the games. That was the thought behind that. Having said that, hindsight’s always 20/20. We get the win tonight, it’s definitely a great move.’’

The Bruins, up, 1-0, after David Krejci’s opening-period goal, saw the Sabres kick off their rally halfway through the first. After Blake Wheeler failed to settle a rim at the defensive-zone boards, Tyler Myers winged a floater from the right point. The wobbler sailed through Wideman, appearing to skim off his arm, and fluttered past Thomas at 9:56.

“It was waffling the whole way,’’ Thomas said. “Guys were trying to block it. I think it might have went off somebody.’’

Later in the first, Myers flicked another shot on goal. With Mike Grier and Paul Gaustad driving hard, Thomas steered the puck with his blocker, believing he had deposited the rebound out of danger.

“I put the rebound exactly where I wanted to,’’ Thomas said. “It was two Buffalo guys crashing the net. So I put it in the middle between the two of them to black jerseys. They were coming back so hard that they overskated it. A guy just whacked at it, it hit something else, and bounced over my pad.’’

Gaustad had reached back, settled the puck, and snapped a backhander on goal. The puck hopped off Wideman’s leg and jumped over Thomas’s right pad at 11:34, giving the Sabres a one-goal lead they took into the second.

“One of the issues tonight was that when we fell behind, we got away from our game a little bit,’’ Julien said. “We weren’t the same team. We had to refocus and getting back to doing the things that had given us momentum early in the game.’’

Before Tim Kennedy’s winning goal, Seidenberg sent a pass up the ice that Buffalo picked off. To compound his mistake, Seidenberg jumped up to challenge Drew Stafford, leaving Wideman as the lone defenseman back. Stafford slipped the puck to Derek Roy, who had a two-on-one rush with Kennedy.

“I turned the puck over, then I was just kind of brain dead, stepping up on the guy,’’ Seidenberg said.

After Kennedy’s close-range shot dribbled through Thomas, Julien told Rask to get in. As Thomas skated by the bench, nearly all the Bruins reached their sticks over the boards to lift their teammate’s spirits.

“At that point there, that goal was a two-on-one and it kind of trickled through,’’ Julien said. “Some way, you’ve got to change the momentum and do something to help your team out. That’s what we decided to do at that time.’’

Rask stopped all 19 shots he saw, including breakaways by Jason Pominville and Roy. At the other end, Ryan Miller (40 saves) turned out to be human when Seidenberg’s long-distance shot thudded off his shoulder, popped into the air, and rolled over the goal line at 14:23.

That was the closest the Bruins would come.

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