BOSTON -- The Bruins clinched a playoff spot, but it wasn't necessarily the way they wanted to clinch, on an emotional Wednesday night at the TD Garden.
In the first major sporting event in Boston since Monday's Boston Marathon attacks, the Bruins lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Buffalo Sabres. However, the one point was enough to guarantee the B's a postseason appearance.
Drew Stafford scored the only goal in the shootout, but it was Cody Hodgson's goal with 26.6 seconds left in regulation that was the dagger.
It looked as if the Bruins were going to hold onto a 2-1 lead, until Andrew Ference received a delay of game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass with 48.8 seconds left in regulation.
Twenty-two seconds into that Buffalo power play, Hodgson was credited for the game-tying goal as a hard Thomas Vanek pass out front from the left corner went off Hodgson's left and into the net, forcing overtime, and eventually a shootout.
The Bruins responded to the emotional opening ceremonies by scoring 5:45 into the game. Daniel Paille finished up Chris Kelly's hard work in the corner after kelly himself won a race to a loose puck at the left half-wall inside Buffalo's zone. Kelly then went to work and was able to dig the puck out and send it to Paille in the slot, who put the Bruins up 1-0.
Vanek tied the game at 1-1 with 1:40 left in the first period and 36 seconds left on the Sabres' power play. With Zdeno Chara in the penalty box for interference, Vanek took a shot from the middle of the point that beat Bruins goaltender Anton Khudobin high.
Chris Kelly put Boston up 2-1 with 5:12 left in the second period, after he took a pass through the slot from Paille, and flipped it over Ryan Miller's left pad.
TALKING POINTS, from Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty
GOLD STAR: Chris Kelly was directly involved with both goals scored by Boston, won 12-of-18 face-offs and was one of the best players on the ice during an inspired effort for the Black and Gold. On the first goal it was Kelly that won multiple battles along the boards before feeding Daniel Paille in front of the net, and on the second it was Paille feeding Kelly in front before the third line pivot scored on a second effort bid in front of the net. Kelly spoke about being emotional before and after the game, and he played that way out on the ice with each and every shift.
BLACK EYE: No shots and no hits for Milan Lucic after getting dropped to the fourth line with Shawn Thornton and Rich Peverley for tonight’s game. You would have thought there would have been urgency and plenty of physicality from No. 17 in a game with so much emotion naturally packed into it, but it just wasn’t there. You have to start to wonder whether it’s shattered confidence, stunning indifference or something else going on with Lucic because he just doesn’t look anything like the player that he was in the previous two seasons. These kind of nights used to be his moments to shine brightest of all.
TURNING POINT: The Bruins still outshot the Sabres by a 17-11 margin in the third period and certainly weren’t playing on their heels, but – like so many times this season – they just couldn’t bury their offensive chances and only had a one goal lead in the final period. So an Andrew Ference delay of game penalty turned into a last minute power play for the Sabres, and they were able to capitalize with less than 30 seconds left to push it into overtime. The method by which the Bruins lost the lead in the third period was certainly deflating after such an emotional high to open the game.
HONORABLE MENTION: Patrice Bergeron hadn’t played a game in 15 days, and yet somehow found a way to snap off a team-high six shots on net, won 13-of-17 face-offs and was the best player on the ice for either team through 65 minutes of play. The fact that No. 37 could do that coming off a “moderate concussion” following by six missed games is certainly noteworthy, but shouldn’t come as a major surprise to anybody that knows how much Boston and the Bruins organization means to the alternate captain. Emotional, inspiring effort from one of the true leaders in the B’s dressing room.
BY THE NUMBERS: 26 – the number of consecutive games dating back to the Stanley Cup playoffs that the Bruins had won when Chris Kelly scores a goal. That undefeated streak was snapped when the B’s lost in overtime.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “We wanted to go out there and win that hockey game. I’m disappointed we didn’t. We wanted to give the city something to be happy about. We went out and battled hard…I’m not taking that away from the guys. But we really wanted to get the two points and hopefully put a smile on someone’s face. [I’m] pretty upset that we didn’t.” –Chris Kelly, who did all he could do to bring a win to the people of Boston.