The Boston Bruins’ first chance to eliminate the third-seeded Sabres in their Conference Quarterfinals matchup didn’t go quite as planned. I suppose it’s to be expected when you’re playing a division champ with a Vezina candidate in net, that they won’t just roll over and die like you want them to, and the Sabres looked like they had plenty of fight left in them as they rolled to a 4-1 win at home on Friday night.
Ryan Miller made 34 saves in the game, and the Sabres jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first, leaving no doubt that the series would go at least one more game in Boston. Adam Mair beat Tuuka Rask with his wraparound try just under two minutes into the first period, and Nathan Gerbe recorded an assist in his first career playoff game to get the Sabres out to a crucial early lead. Jason Pominville, who had only one point coming into the game, snuck through the Bruins’ defense off a broken play and dangled around Rask to put Buffalo up 2-0 late in the first.
Mike Grier beat Rask midway through the 2nd with a one timer off a faceoff, and the scored remained 3-0 for the next 27 minutes, until Johnny Boychuk finally beat Miller with a drive from the point that sailed perfectly into the top corner, giving the Bruins a bit of life late in the game. 47 seconds later, though, Tyler Ennis dove to win a foot race to a loose puck with Rask pulled, and chipped the puck into the empty net to end any hopes of a Boston comeback.
Despite giving up 3 goals, Rask was still good in net for the B’s, stopping 29 of 32 shots he faced, but the Bruins struggled to solve Miller all night, and their frustration nearly cost them dearly at the end of the game. Captain and leading defenseman Zdeno Chara was baited into a brawl in the closing seconds by grinder Paul Gaustad, and from the initial review, it looked as if Chara would be suspended for Game 6 due to the fact that he was slapped with an instigator penalty in the final period, which is grounds for suspension in the following game. After further review by the league, however, it was determined that Gaustad slashed the big d-man before Chara swung at him, and the instigator penalty was wiped out, giving Boston back their leader for a crucial Game 6 on Monday in Boston.