Bruins Clinch Playoff Birth on Emotional Night

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The Buffalo Sabres defeated the Boston Bruins Wednesday night at TD Garden, falling 3-2, in a shootout. It was night in which hockey took a back seat to a city gathering together as one for the first time since Monday’s tragic Boston Marathon bombing. The Black-and-Gold pledged to “play their hearts out” for their hometown and that they did. The game was an emotional roller coaster from start to finish. Despite the loss, Boston punched a ticket to the playoffs. By forcing overtime, the B’s secured one point, and drew even with Montreal (beaten 6-4 by Pittsburgh) in the standings.

Prior to puck drop, the Bruins paid tribute to the victims, first responders, and all who were affected in any way by Monday’s senseless acts. A tear jerking video honoring the brilliant strength everyone had shown amidst disaster was featured on the jumbotron. Showing unwavering empathy, a sold out TD Garden crowd then beautifully sang the national anthem in complete unison. Brad Marchand was asked about the moment, saying, “I was fighting back tears.”

The 17,565 on hand exhibited heartfelt support, loudly voicing words of unity throughout the evening. Deafening chants of “We are Boston”, “Let’s go Boston”, “USA-USA” and “We love Martin” rang out proudly.

Chris Kelly and Danny Paille almost immediately gave everyone something to cheer about, wasting little time, scoring just 5:15 into the first period. After chasing a puck deep into Buffalo’s end, Kelly won a scrum along the corner boards. He then turned and set up a crashing Paille with a nifty centering pass for the game’s first goal. The great hustle and determination set the tone for what was a sixty-minute, inspirational effort put forth by the Bruins.

Naturally and understandably so, playing with somber hearts led to some slip-ups in Boston’s play. Sabres forward Thomas Vanek was able to redirect a Christian Ehroff slapper by Anton Khudobin just before the first frame came to a close. His power play marker sent both sides to the dressing room tied, 1-1.

Boston showcased true resiliency in the second period, grabbing a go-ahead goal on yet another gritty play by Chris Kelly. This time he was the one rewarded for his invaluable blue-collar work. In jostling for position in front of Buffalo’s goaltender Ryan Miller, Kelly stuck with a loose puck in the crease and banged it home. It seemed to be only fitting that Kelly, a guy who humbly goes about his business like all Bostonians, enjoyed a break out game.

Following the loss, Kelly said, “We wanted to go out there and win that hockey game. I’m disappointed that we didn’t. We wanted to give the city something to be happy about.”

The B’s entered the final twenty-minutes leading, 2-1. Unfortunately things just weren’t meant to be for the Bruins. Andrew Ference inadvertently flipped a puck over the glass with only forty-eight seconds remaining in regulation, resulting in a Sabres power play. Cody Hodgson capitalized on the opportunity, knotting the score at two apiece.

In overtime, neither club could manage to muster up any luck. Drew Stafford recorded the lone shootout tally, winning it for Buffalo. In victory, the Sabres brought themselves within two points of the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff position.

Upon conclusion, the B’s and Sabres exhibited pure class, stick saluting the Boston crowd. According to Andrew Ference, the gesture was the idea of Thomas Vanek. Vanek’s acts of professionalism, kindness, and sincerity epitomized what the night was all about.

Anton Khudobin was marvelous in net for the Bruins, making several Tim Thomas esque saves. The return of Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron helped fill out the lineup nicely and provided Claude Julien with the ability to roll four lines with confidence. Though both of these positives fell short of what was most importantly accomplished.

Buffalo may have a “W” next to their name in the box score, but it’s the citizens of Boston who are the real winners. Standing united and rallying behind one another served as a reminder to the world that nothing will divide such a mighty group. Claude Julien made it clear that he and his team hope to represent a beacon of hope in the healing process, saying, “It’s not about trying to make this city proud of your team tonight, but every night.” The Bruins provided much needed temporary emotional relief and served as a galvanizing force, helping all in attendance collectively discover comfort together.

The Pittsburgh Penguins will be in town Friday night to do battle with the B’s. Carl Soderberg is likely to make his Bruins debut. Though no matter the outcome, one thing is for sure; moving forward in joint compassion undoubtedly trumps any evil.

 

Frank O’Laughlin – NHL Contributor – TitleTown Sports

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