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Sabre Adam Mair scored on the team’s first shot on Friday night in Game 5 against the Bruins. OK, no problem. The Sabres have scored first in every game this series, and the Bruins carried a commanding 3-1 series lead. 1-0? Big deal.
Then, the Sabres scored just before the end of the first period on Jason Pominville’s second of the series. 2-0? The Bruins erased that deficit in Game 4. Things got interesting when Mike Grier scored midway through the second to give the Sabres a 3-0 lead. OK, that’s a bit too much.
The Bruins failed to recover from a 3-0 deficit through the first 30 minutes, and the Sabres took a critical Game 5 to stave off elimination, winning 4-1.
Tuukka Rask showed his youth a bit, but he can’t be blamed entirely. His team was far too sloppy with the puck in their own end, including a horrible attempt to clear the puck by Andrew Ference which led to a Sabres goal. Rask finished with 29 saves.
Ryan Miller, by contrast, was spectacular, as he held the Bruins scoreless through the first two periods. Johnny Boychuk finally broke through with a goal early in the third, but Miller and a desperate Buffalo defense were too much. The Sabres had numerous blocked shots to help Miller, who was on top of his game all night. Miller finished with 34 saves.
Buffalo’s Tyler Ennis capped the scoring with a diving empty-net goal with less than two minutes to play in the third.
The Sabres were clearly desperate, and they should have been. Down 3-1 in the series, they played exactly as expected. The Bruins, on the other hand, did not show the same fervor. One clear way to see this is their lack of shots on goal. Through the first two periods combined, the Bruins mustered just 14 shots. Down 3-0 in the third, the Bruins began to push the panic button, finishing with 21 shots in the third alone.
With Game 5 in Buffalo, everyone had to expect the Sabres to be in top form, even without Thomas Vanek. So, you can take that win, Sabres.
Now, the series moves back to Boston for Game 6 on Monday, where the Bruins ideally will have a much better chance to close out the series.
If the Sabres manage to force Game 7…OK we won’t talk about that, yet.