By René Reyes/DFP Staff
Despite having a 36-save performance in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals Wednesday night, Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller wanted to be left alone. He didn’t want to be consoled by his teammates. He didn’t want to talk to the media. Sprawled on a bench in the corner of the visiting team’s locker room, Miller could only mutter expletive after expletive after expletive to himself.
A few minutes prior, Boston Bruins forward Miroslav Satan received a beautiful pass from teammate Michael Ryder in the slot, deked Miller and backhanded the puck into the back of the net, giving the Bruins the thrilling 3-2 double-overtime victory over the Sabres at the TD Garden to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
“I saw [Miller] coming out and made a move to the side and then I had an empty net,” Satan said of his game-winning overtime goal.
Before a raucous crowd of 17,565, the Bruins came back from a two-goal deficit and netted three unanswered goals, culminating in Satan’s power play tally at the 7:41 mark of the second overtime.
“I think we showed a lot of character tonight and it’s a huge win, but it’s only one win,” said Bruins forward Patrice Bergeron. “We need one more. I thought the way we came back showed a lot from our team and everyone stepped up and it was really a team effort tonight.”
For the fourth time in as many games, the Sabres found the back of the net first when forward Tim Kennedy beat Tuukka Rask (35 saves) from the slot at the 2:12 mark of the first period to give Buffalo the early 1-0 advantage.
With 13:01 to play in the second frame, defenseman Steve Montador added to Buffalo’s cushion after his slap shot from just inside the right faceoff circle deflected off defenseman Dennis Wideman’s stick and trickled past a screened Rask.
“I thought I didn’t have a chance on those goals,” Rask said. “No matter if I did or not, you just keep focusing on the next shot and try not to give them that third one because that would have been deadly.”
For the first two periods, Ryan Miller played like Vezina Trophy candidate and Olympian Ryan Miller, stopping all 16 shots he faced in the first 40 minutes of play.
But the Bruins would have their way with Miller in the final frame.
A little more than two minutes into the third period, defenseman Matt Hunwick’s shot from the point bounced off Miller’s chest, and center David Krejci collected the loose puck and put it home, cutting the Sabres’ lead in half.
Four and a half minutes later, Bergeron knotted the contest at two goals apiece when he slipped the puck through Miller’s five-hole, sending the home crowd into euphoria.
“That’s the second time this year and we have been fortunate to do it twice,” said Bruins forward Mark Recchi of coming back from down 2-0. “We don’t want to get in the habit, that’s for sure, but guys showed a lot of character. I don’t think we were that great early and they played hard, but we got better as it went on and showed a lot of desperation and we needed it.”
Rask and Miller stole the show in the overtime sessions, standing on their heads and making saves worthy of Top 10 spots on Thursday’s SportsCenter.
“He has been awesome,” Bergeron said of Rask. “He has been awesome all year. Him and Timmy [Thomas] have been giving us a chance to win every time that we are stepping on the ice and he just carries that with him. In the playoffs he has been great also, and great tonight.”
Recchi couldn’t stop raving about Miller, who stopped forward Blake Wheeler on a 1-on-1 opportunity in the final minutes of regulation and then came up with, perhaps, the save of the year, when he glove-saved a Satan shot in front of an empty net in the first OT that would have given the B’s the win.
“He was outstanding,” Recchi said. “Tuukka was great too, but Miller made some saves that were just tremendous. I’m sure in quality chances, we probably had the better quality, but he is a terrific goalie and we are finding ways to get that extra one that we need and we have to continue if we want to win the series.”
With Game 5 at Buffalo, the Bruins know they’ll face their toughest test yet Friday night.
“It’s going to be the toughest game we’ve had to play,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “This is a team that had a great year. This a team that has a lot of character and that’s why they’re in the playoffs. We’ve had to battle for every inch. There’s going to be some desperation, probably even more than there was tonight.
“They certainly don’t want to lose at home, and we’re going to have to be that much better and that much smarter.”