[photogallerylink id=17730 align=right]Adam Mair, Jason Pominville, and Mike Grier scored in the first 30 minutes for the Buffalo Sabres, who rebounded from a devastating loss and beat the Boston Bruins 4-1 on Friday night to force a sixth game in the Eastern Conference first-round series.
Boston goalie Tuukka Rask had outplayed Buffalo’s Ryan Miller, but only barely, as the Bruins had won three straight tight games. The Sabres broke through early in this one, with Mair scoring on Buffalo’s first shot. The Bruins didn’t recover.
Johnny Boychuk scored the lone Boston goal late in the third, but Tyler Ennis added an empty-net goal for the Sabres with 1:43 remaining. Game 6 is Monday night in Boston. The Bruins lead the series 3-2.
Miller made 34 saves and was helped at every turn by his teammates, who blocked 19 shots in the first two periods.
Buffalo had scored the first goal in every game – the only team in the playoffs to do so – but it hadn’t mattered since the Sabres’ 2-1 victory in the opener. They extended the streak to five when Mair took control of the puck near the left corner behind the goal line and flicked a quick shot toward Rask. It deflected off his left skate and in at 1:54.
That elicited derisive chants of “Tuukka, Tuukka” from the home crowd, which was remarkably subdued early on for such an important game.
With Sabres leading scorer Thomas Vanek out for the third straight game because of a foot injury, coach Lindy Ruff challenged his other key offensive players to take charge. In the first four games, Derek Roy, Tim Connolly, and Pominville each had one point – and only one goal – on a combined 33 shots.
Pominville gave the Sabres a 2-0 lead with 66 seconds left in the opening period, scoring his second of the series after Boston’s Vladimir Sobotka and Andrew Ference failed to clear the puck from their zone. Tyler Ennis blocked a breakout pass and the puck deflected to Roy, who fed Pominville at the right side of the net. Pominville flicked a shot into the short side before Rask could recover.
The Bruins had just five shots in the period and nearly scored. But Daniel Paille’s short-handed backhand attempt whizzed past Miller’s glove, hit the pipe and stayed out.
The Sabres held 2-0 leads in Games 2 and 4, but the Bruins scored the third goal in each as they reeled off three straight wins. The most devastating blow came Wednesday, when Boston rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the third period and won in double overtime despite brilliant play by Miller.
Grier ended any thoughts of another comeback when he scored his second of the series. Paul Gaustad beat Patrice Bergeron on a faceoff deep in the Boston zone, drawing it straight back to Grier. He beat Rask with a one-timer from the high slot.
The goal came seconds after Connolly had hit the post, and Ennis had grazed the crossbar during a Buffalo flurry.
Buffalo had been outscored 6-0 in the third period in the first four games and the Bruins made a strong bid to rally on this night, outshooting the Sabres 14-5 in the first 11 minutes of the frame. That equaled their output over the first two periods, but Miller was there every time. He stopped consecutive drives by defensemen Matt Hunwick and Dennis Wideman with 11:12 left and made a pad save on Paille’s drive when the winger skated in alone with just over 5 minutes left.
The Bruins finally broke through when Boychuk scored on a one-timer from the left point on a power play with 2:30 left.
The Sabres continued their futility on the power play, failing twice to remain scoreless on 16 attempts.
The game ended with a melee in front of the Buffalo bench, but no penalties were called.
NOTES: Vanek hasn’t since being injured in Game 2. … Ruff inserted Nathan Gerbe into the lineup in place of veteran winger Raffi Torres in an effort to bolster the attack. Gerbe had one assist. Torres was acquired at the trade deadline in March and didn’t score a goal in 14 games. … The Sabres are 0-11 in series in which they’ve trailed 3-1, and 5-7 in Game 5.