Boston, MA --Daniel Paille scored two goals to pace the Buffalo Sabres in their 4-2 victory over the Boston Bruins Tuesday night in Boston's TD Banknorth Garden. Thomas Vanek and Toni Lydman notched Buffalo's other goals, while Sabres goalie Ryan Miller stopped 30 Boston shots. P.J. Axelsson and Glen Metropolit scored for Boston.
Boston Bruins' Shawn Thornton (22) knocks Buffalo Sabres' Andrew Peters to the ice during a fight in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008 in Boston. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
"For the first two periods I thought our chances were there," said a disappointed Bruins head coach, Claude Julien, post game. "But that is something that we have been talking about a lot this year -- about bearing down on our opportunities.
"It's been a challenge…to improve in that area and tonight it came back to hurt us."
The Bruins, who came into the game ranked eighth in the Eastern Conference, started Tuesday's game against Buffalo -- the first half of a home-at-home series with the Sabres -- with the intention of surpassing their impressive showing against Nashville, Ottawa and Detroit last week when they garnered two wins.
The Black & Gold also hoped that a similar effort this week would add enough points for the club to climb the playoff-positioning ladder. But a tough line change early in the first period sprung the Buffalo offense, including the dangerous Daniel Paille, who scored his 12th goal of the season at just 3:30 to put the Bruins in a 1-0 hole.
At 5:33, Boston's beat cop, Shawn Thornton, sought to change the momentum in the contest when he took on Buffalo's bruising forward Andrew Peters in a bit of on-ice pugilism. Thornton woke up the crowd in the Garden with a very solid takedown of the big winger after he landed several punches during an entertaining heavyweight match-up.
"We were down one to nothing and I thought we were a little flat at the start," said Thornton. "He's a pretty big tough guy and I have run into him a couple of times in the minors, so I asked him and he said sure.
"I thought I would try and get the boys going."
Thornton's strategy seemed to work.
Later in the period, a David Krejci faceoff win for Boston kept a puck deep and alive in Sabres territory. And when the disk ended up back on the stick of the young Boston rookie, his ensuing shot was deflected by the Buffalo D, and went off the post. But the rebound was gathered by Axelsson, and the Swede beat Sabres goalie Ryan Miller at 9:48 to tie the game.
In the second period, Buffalo took advantage of a defensive breakdown in the Boston end and when Thomas Vanek was left alone in front of Boston goalie Tim Thomas with the puck, the Buffalo forward found the back of the B's net at 5:44.
"We made a couple of miscues," said Coach Julien. "But, looking back at the game is was more of one team hungrier than the other and one team playing with more desperation than the other.
"They need to get back in the race and these two games they play against us this week mean as much as the two games we played against New York [in the B's last home-at-home series] meant to us.
"And obviously we didn't respond well enough," he said.
The Sabres then succeeded in shutting down the Boston shooters for the rest of the period, and the Bruins were unable to find any holes in Miller's armor during the middle stanza.
Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (30) makes a save in the third period of a NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008 in Boston. Miller made 30 saves in the Sabres 4-2 win over the Bruins. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
"They went to the net with a purpose," said Julien. "We didn't.
"We can look like we were going to the net, but there is a difference between looking like you are going to the net and [actually] going to the net with a purpose."
In a reasonable copy of his early goal, Paille scored again in the third session to put the Sabres up 3-1 with just over six minutes remaining on the clock. It was a controversial goal and replays showed that the puck went into the net off of his foot, but off-ice officials deemed that there was no distinct kicking motion by Paille.
Sabres defenseman Toni Lydman added another goal late, at 18:27, to make the score 4-1 Buffalo and essentially put the game out of reach for Boston.
Metropolit scored for Boston at 19:59 to make the final score 4-2, Buffalo.
"I think that [our club] wanted to play the game to win and they felt that they were doing that," said Coach Julien. "For a couple of periods they felt like they were a better team.
"But, having said that, I don't think we did the things that we needed to do.
"For two periods, it could have gone either way, but still…I sensed that [Buffalo] was a little more desperate," he said.
Notes: Beanpot Veterans…
On Monday night, TD Banknorth was a buzz with the semifinals of the 56th annual Beanpot tournament. After former Bruin Ted Donato's Harvard club beat out Northeastern 3-1, the BC-BU rivalry was rekindled with BC coming out on top 4-3 in overtime. And in case you didn’t catch it, tonight’s game pitted two Beanpot Alums against each other, Kobasew for the Bruins (former BC Eagle) and Michael Ryan (former Northeastern Husky) of the Sabres. Kobasew extended his point streak to five straight games with 2-4-6 totals in that span and his assist on Boston’s second goal was his 31st point of the season, tying his career–high for points in a season set in 2005-06 with Calgary.
With a second to spare…
Metropolit's goal at 19:59 of the third was not Boston’s "first last-second score" of this season. He joins Marco Sturm, who scored at 19:59 in the first period vs. New Jersey on January 5.
1 - 0 BUF
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 BUF
3 - 1 BUF
4 - 1 BUF
4 - 2 BUF
Holding the stick