Boston, MA – Tomas Vanek notched a hat trick as his Buffalo Sabres defeated the Boston Bruins, 3-0, in both squad's final game of the season. Tim Thomas made 25 saves in the loss.
Boston will face Montreal in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
However, the Bruins final standing will not be decided until the outcome of the Pittsburgh vs. Philadelphia game tomorrow, but all scenarios produce a first round series against the Habs.
If Pittsburgh beats Philly, the Pens go into first place, tied in points with Montreal, but owning the tiebreaker in wins (48-47). The Flyers remain in eighth with Montreal-Boston as the 2-7 seed.
If the Flyers defeat the Penguins, the Pens remain in second place and Philadelphia will move into sixth with Montreal-Boston as the 1-8 seeding.
"We have to play somebody," said Bruins head coach Claude Julien after the game. "To me it didn't matter who we were going to play...I don't think we were ever going to play a bad team.
"So, there's no issues there for me."
The Bruins faced the Sabres at the TD Banknorth Garden Saturday having secured a spot in the playoffs but still wondering who their first-round opponent would be in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
However, after a month of emotional games, the Bruins fell short on this night.
"Was I disappointed? Yes," said Julien. "The competative nature in you is always there.
"And the one thing that Buffalo did, was play a great game...they played a smart game."
The Bruins were out shot early in the period, but the defense and Thomas consistently kept the puck from finding its mark.
Vanek was sent to the penalty box at 6:10 for holding, giving Boston the first man advantage of the night and a chance to catch up to the Sabres leading shot count.
A scrambling save by Thomas around the 14-minute mark caused a large, particularly heated scuffle by the Bruins net, which was quickly broken up by referees but involved all the players on the ice.
Shane Hnidy and Mike Ryan got into an argument in front of the Bruins net, causing Hnidy to be called for roughing at 19:12, which would give the Sabres a power play going into the second period with the game still scoreless.
With the Sabres still on the power play, Vanek put Buffalo in the lead 1-0 just 1:01 into the period.
Aaron Ward entered the penalty box at 11:19 for elbowing, and just 19 seconds into the power play, Vanek made the score 2-0 and it remained so going into the second break.
Symbolic of their offensive difficulties on the night, a little over one minute into the final period, a loose puck nearly found its way into the Buffalo crease, but Thibault clamped down on it before any of the B’s could shove it past the goal line.
Vanek completed his hat trick with 43 seconds to go to make the final score, 3-0, Buffalo.
"I call it a hiccup," said Ward. "Man for man we wanted to win this game and get two points, but unfortunately we didn't come with our best.
"[But] we have been a solid group and we'll bring that to game one and prepare to play seven games."
Stay tuned to BostonBruins.com for the latest on Boston's first round matchup with Montreal.
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