BUFFALO - The puck that jumped off the stick of Buffalo defenseman Andrej Sekera and whizzed past Alex Auld 39 seconds into last night's overtime had eyes, according to Boston coach Claude Julien.
Fortunately for the Bruins, the puck that fluttered off the stick of Buffalo defenseman Toni Lydman in the third period didn't have legs.
Sekera's blast - Glen Murray thought it ticked off him and caromed into the cage - gave the desperate Sabres a 2-1 overtime win, keeping the 10th-place club in the playoff hunt. But Lydman's third-period knuckleball nearly dribbled over the goal line, possibly giving Buffalo the victory in regulation and preventing the Bruins from claiming the precious point they posted by taking the game to OT.
Auld, making his first start since March 16 (a 2-1 shootout loss to Washington), didn't catch sight of Lydman's release on his slow-moving shot, which sailed through an Aaron Ward screen. At the last moment, the puck entered Auld's crosshairs when it was almost on top of him. So it wasn't surprising that the shot handcuffed Auld, who bobbled the puck and felt it pop onto a most unusual location.
Between the numbers.
"I could feel it rolling down my back," said Auld.
Fortunately for the 6-foot-5-inch Auld, the puck had plenty of real estate to tumble down before falling off, like a barrel going over Niagara Falls, and rolling over the line. So as Auld scooted back toward his crease, he somehow dislodged the puck, which bounced toward the front of the net and created a massive pileup that involved nearly every skater on the ice. After what seemed like an eternity to Auld, the Bruins cleared the puck. Minutes later, the final seconds ticked off the clock, giving the Bruins at least 1 point.
"It's been a good week for us," said Julien, whose boys blanked Ottawa Saturday and swept a home-and-home set with Toronto. "If somebody told me we had a chance for 7 out of 8 points this week, we certainly would have taken it. I still think our team played hard tonight. It was our third game in four nights, and obviously fatigue sets in with some mental mistakes. But the one thing I won't criticize is our team's effort."
The Bruins now have 91 points, the same total as the Rangers and Flyers. They are 3 ahead of Washington and 5 points better than the Sabres. In the first period, David Krejci stretched his scoring streak to four straight games when he netted a shorthanded goal during a four-minute Buffalo power play (high-sticking double minor on Milan Lucic). Krejci, after picking off a cross-ice pass from winger Maxim Afinogenov, sprinted away and was joined by Marco Sturm, creating a two-on-one against Lydman, the lone Sabre back. Krejci considered dishing to Sturm in the neutral zone, but once he picked up speed and gained an angle on Ryan Miller, the center lifted a wrister past the goalie's glove at 2:33 of the first. Krejci now has three goals and five assists in his last four games.
But Buffalo wiped out Boston's lead after Murray was called for goaltender interference. During the following power play, Derek Roy dished the puck to Paul Gaustad at the goal line to the right of Boston's net. Gaustad took the pass and quickly got it off his stick to Lydman, who had gained position on Zdeno Chara in front of the Boston cage. Lydman shoveled the puck past Auld (28 saves) at 10:15, tying the game at 1-1.
That's where the score remained until overtime, when the Bruins seemingly gained control of the puck in their zone. Ward sent it up the gut to Glen Metropolit, and both Bruins turned up ice to start the breakout. But Sekera pounced on Metropolit to create a turnover, sending the puck the other way.
"Their D were doing a pretty good job of jumping us in the neutral zone and catching us off guard at times," Julien said. "That created a turnover off Metro's stick and Wardo was ready to support the attack. Instead, he had to work his way back and we got caught out of position."
Forward Thomas Vanek, who gained control of the turnover, cut toward the middle of the ice and laid the puck off for Sekera, who had plenty of time to step into his shot.
"I didn't realize it hit him," Auld said of the winning deflection off Murray. "I knew he was in front. It's tough when the puck's just sitting there for the guy. He had a sprint almost from the red line. To not see it clean or have it hit something, it's tough.
"Obviously I would have loved to have made that save. But we're really trying to keep our heads up, keep going, and keep moving forward."