Despite that ending, the Sabres responded after a trio of uneven efforts to start the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. They played quite well, outside of a five-minute lapse in the third period that Boston used to turn a 2-0 hole into the 2-2 tie that carried through until Satan's game-winner. It was their best performance of the series, and only some magnificent goaltending by rookie Tuukka Rask kept the series from being tied.
Friday night, Buffalo was able to carry that effort over, beating Boston 4-1 to pull within 3-2 in the series.
For the game's first 40 minutes, the Bruins were stifled, unable to generate the kinds of quality chances they got on Ryan Miller in Game 4.
Meanwhile, the Sabres used their hard work to get a lot of shots on Rask. Adam Mair got the game's first goal on a wrap-around. Grinder Mike Grier -- who has been a stud in this series on both ends of the ice, outside of his coverage gaffe that helped lead to the Game 4 winner -- ripped a shot home off a clean faceoff win.
Buffalo outshot Boston 26-14 over two periods. Give the Bruins credit for showing some urgency in the third period and getting a lot of pucks on Miller (they outshot Buffalo 21-7 in the third), but the Sabres did a great job protecting Miller from the great chances. There was nothing along the lines of the awe-inspiring saves he made in overtime. Miller had 34 saves in the game.
Johnny Boychuk broke the shutout in the final three minutes with a knuckleball shot through traffic on the power play. However, rookie Tyler Ennis' diving shot into an empty net gave him his first career playoff goal and iced the win.
It was a well-deserved win for Buffalo. They controlled the first 40 minutes, did a good job keeping pucks on the perimeter, where scoring chances don't come as easily. For people wondering if the Sabres were capable of matching the intensity Boston brought to the series' first three games, an emphatic answer in the affirmative has been delivered with the last two performances.
We had some ugliness in the final seconds, as Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta took a whack at the ankles of Boston captain Zdeno Chara. Shockingly, Chara took exception, and while he was taking care of Kaleta in a pileup, Miller skated over to take Satan away from the pile. The two nearly came to blows, in what could have been the highlight scrap of the playoffs had it actually happened.
Chara received an instigator penalty, which normally carries an automatic suspension in this case because it was in the closing moments of a game. The NHL decided to repeal the suspension, presumably after seeing that Chara was justified in his anger.
Game 6 is set for Monday night in Boston, and it should be quite interesting, as things continue to heat up between these Northeast Division rivals.