NHL Boston BruinsBuffalo Sabres

Shootout Win Inches Buffalo Sabres Closer to Playoffs

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The fairy-tale ending that Boston, and probably most of the sports world, was hoping for didn’t come to fruition tonight. The Boston Bruins hosted the Buffalo Sabres in the first sporting event in Boston since the horrific Boston Marathon bombing but the Bruins came up short in a 3-2 shootout loss. The win puts the Sabres a mere 2 points back of the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference.

The game was bookended by two great moments. Before the game, the crowd at the TD Garden erupted into a rousing rendition of the National Anthem without accompaniment. At the end of the game, after a subdued celebration by the victorious Sabres, both teams went to center ice and raised their sticks in salute to the fans and citizens of Boston, which was met with an ovation from the crowd. Before the game a blue and yellow ribbon that featured the phrase ‘Boston Strong’ was emblazoned around the arena and was a sticker on both team’s helmets.

The Bruins honored the city, despite the loss, playing an impassioned game with a real sense of purpose. Boston peppered Buffalo goalie Ryan Miller, playing in his first game in more than a week, with a total of 43 shots including all 3 in the shootout. Miller was called upon time and again to make great saves. Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin was almost Miller’s match in stopping 30 shots, including some great chances the Sabres had in the overtime period. It was a game that neither goalie wanted to lose and unfortunately for Khudobin Miller was the better goalie tonight.

All of a sudden the Sabres’ powerplay has woken up. Both goals came with an extra man advantage, the first from Thomas Vanek in the first period and then in the third period Cody Hodgson scored the game-tying goal, which Vanek also assisted on. The Sabres still rank dead last in powerplay percentage but have now tallied 3 powerplay goals in their past 2 games. Christian Ehrhoff continued his recent streak of good play assisting on Vanek’s goal and playing nearly 27 minutes.

The Bruins still managed to clinch a playoff spot tonight even though they lost. All eyes will be on the 8th playoff spot, however, as the New York Rangers will cling for dear life to it in the last few games of the season. The Rangers have 2 games in hand over the Sabres but the teams play Friday in what will most likely be a do-or-die game for the Sabres. The Rangers are also tied with the Winnipeg Jets in points but have a game in hand over the Jets as well. However, the remainder of the Rangers games are against teams currently not in the playoffs – so it really is the Rangers’ spot to lose. The Sabres also have a game against the Jets before the season ends.