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Sabres 2, Bruins 1

Rebuffed

Bruins can’t quite convert their chances

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / April 16, 2010

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BUFFALO — In the second period last night, just about everything went the Bruins’ way. They barraged Ryan Miller with 24 shots. They executed clean breakouts, even cleaner entries, and ramped up the forechecking heat on the Buffalo defensemen. They netted the tying goal, courtesy of a Mark Recchi second effort that beat Miller over his blocker.

For all that, coach Claude Julien had the perfect view of Buffalo’s winning goal later in the period — ironically, one Tuukka Rask never saw.

With Patrick Kaleta fronting Johnny Boychuk and setting a screen on Rask, Craig Rivet wound up from the right circle and hammered a slap shot that buzzed through traffic and picked the top corner at 14:10, the deciding goal in the Sabres’ 2-1 playoff-opening victory over the Bruins before 18,690 at HSBC Arena.

“Where he shot it from, we could see right from the bench,’’ said Julien. “Tuukka couldn’t see a thing. He was screened.

“Definitely a good goal. Top corner. We still had a lot of time to get back into it. Unfortunately, we found ourselves in the box in the third. That certainly made it harder to get some momentum.’’

It was a series projected to feature airtight goaltending, shutdown defense, and precious few goals. Based on the 60 minutes of Game 1, with Rask and Miller trading Grade-A saves, both teams are due for more of the same. Rask (30 saves) was at his busiest in the first and third periods, with the Sabres putting 12 shots on goal in each.

At the other end, Miller (38 saves) saw Zdeno Chara land a game-high six shots, while Boychuk, Miroslav Satan, and Blake Wheeler had five apiece. Miller turned them all aside.

“We have to stay positive right now,’’ Recchi said. “We have to look at the good things we did. The only bad thing is that we didn’t get the result. But if we play like that, we’ll get the results.’’

The Bruins may not be play ing their most hated rival, as they did the last two postseasons. But tempers flared throughout the night, especially after Chara was nabbed for boarding Kaleta, Buffalo’s chief agitator, at 15:14 of the first. The two had traded shots prior to the penalty.

“This is Zdeno’s third playoffs with me, and every year they go after him,’’ Julien said. “I don’t think he’s going to be wasting his time with somebody who just sees a little bit of ice.’’

After the whistle, Steve Montador approached Chara to tell him what he thought of his hit on Kaleta. Moments later, Raffi Torres jumped in and got his arm around Chara’s head. At the same time, Toni Lydman and Milan Lucic exchanged pops.

Lucic earned a four-minute roughing penalty, while Chara was called for roughing and cross-checking. Montador (roughing), Lydman (roughing), Torres (roughing), and Kaleta (10-minute misconduct) were sent to the Buffalo box.

Chara should have been in the box until 19:14, but he was mistakenly released after serving only two minutes. At 17:23 of the first, after leaving the box early, Chara winged a wrister on goal that Miller stopped. After referees Dan O’Halloran and Brian Pochmara noticed the error at the next stoppage, Chara returned to the box to finish serving his time.

“Mistake from the box,’’ Julien said. “Both coaches understood. We put him back in the box because he shouldn’t have been the guy out. It’s a human mistake.’’

In the second, when the Bruins were at their puck-possessing best, they took advantage of a Lydman cross-checking penalty. Chara, manning the point, stepped into a Matt Hunwick setup and cranked a one-timer that thudded off Miller’s right pad. Recchi chased down the rebound and fired the puck into the top left corner at 9:30.

The goal wiped out a 1-0 lead the Sabres took at 4:52 of the first period. First, Derek Roy slipped past Hunwick in the Buffalo zone — the Bruins defenseman was holding the blue line at the left point — and triggered a two-on-two rush. Hunwick recovered to gain position on Matt Ellis, who was driving to the far post, while Dennis Wideman stepped up on Roy.

But Thomas Vanek joined the rush and called for the puck with several taps of his stick on the ice. Vanek, having gained a step on a backchecking Recchi, accepted Roy’s dish and fired a snap shot over Rask’s blocker. It was a textbook strike.

“Great shot,’’ said Daniel Paille, Vanek’s former teammate. “Perfect shot by Vanek.’’

Rask, albeit surprised by Vanek’s entry as the third man on the rush, thought he had a chance at stopping the shot.

“I couldn’t push to the right and left my blocker side open,’’ said Rask. “He made a good shot. But that’s something, if I’m in the right position, I’m going to have that.’’

The teams square off again tomorrow afternoon on NBC.

“Whether you lose, 10-1, or you lose, 2-1, it’s a loss,’’ said Julien. “That’s the way we look at it. Next game, we’ve just got to focus on hopefully winning that one.

“We played hard enough. We played well enough. Only one team is going to come out of here with a win. They did tonight. So hopefully we can do the job next game.’’

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