Bruins 2, Sabres 1

Bergeron’s tip lifts Bruins in OT

Rask steady again in win over Sabres

Patrice Bergeron (left) scored the winner, but Marco Sturm led the celebration in the Bruins’ 2-1 victory in overtime. Patrice Bergeron (left) scored the winner, but Marco Sturm led the celebration in the Bruins’ 2-1 victory in overtime. (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / November 21, 2009

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BUFFALO - In a season full of missteps, miscues, and inconsistent offense, the Bruins took a second strong step forward in as many nights, pinning a 2-1 loss on the Sabres when Patrice Bergeron tipped home Zdeno Chara’s long-range wrister with 47 seconds gone in overtime at HSBC Arena last night.

The victory, the second straight in extra time, provided what may be the first signs of substantive traction in what has been a frustrating season for the Bruins, who finished first in the Eastern Conference last season but have been lodged among the also-rans, pretenders, and have-nots in 2009-10.

“Yeah, you can ask me that,’’ said Chara, mulling the question whether wins over Atlanta and Buffalo could prove to be the club’s turning point. “We know we have to keep playing like this, keep battling. For sure it’s a good sign that we beat two quality, aggressive teams, but we don’t want to get too high or too low about it.

“Let’s just say it’s a first positive step on a four-game road trip.’’

The start here was humble, the Bruins badly outplayed and outshot, 8-4, in the opening period when the Sabres built a 1-0 lead compliments of a Paul Gaustad tip-in on the power play at 4:20.

The Bruins needed the first 20 minutes to shake out the cobwebs after the shootout win in Atlanta, and then a flight here that didn’t get them in their hotel until after 1 a.m.

“I’m not going to say it was expected,’’ said coach Claude Julien, whose charges will fly to St. Louis tomorrow for a meeting with the Blues Monday night. “But we stayed off the ice in the morning because we needed some rest.

“You could kind of predict that we’d need time to get going.’’

Much perkier from the drop of the puck in the second, the Bruins rolled up a 14-3 shot advantage and moved into a 1-1 tie when Milan Lucic nailed in his first of the season at 10:54. Flying up ice with Byron Bitz, Lucic nailed a short one-timer by Ryan Miller on the left side after Bitz dished over a pinpoint relay from just to the right of the slot.

Nice hands by Bitz and an even slicker finish by Lucic, who returned to the lineup the night before after missing nearly five weeks because of a fractured right index finger.

“I think he was yelling,’’ said Bitz, referring to his new linemate, Lucic, who might remain part of the trio with Bitz and Steve Begin for a while. “He did a really good job driving to the net and then a great job finishing it off, too. He yelled and I looked, and there was just that little bit of room under of their guys’ sticks to get it to him.’’

Tuukka Rask, who made his third straight start in net for Boston, picked up an assist on the Lucic goal. The puck squirted off his stick after a stop and it was Bitz, showing surprising speed, who started it up ice from deep in his end.

“I knew he was going to make that pass,’’ said Lucic. “I knew he saw me with my stick down. A really nice play by him to get it over like that. And nice to get a goal, although it took a little longer than I hoped.’’

Over the remaining 29:06 of regulation, Rask made 16 stops and Miller turned back 10, triggering overtime - the fourth in five outings for the goal-strapped Bruins. They blew a third-period lead Thursday, then needed Bergeron’s lone strike in the shootout to claim the victory.

Bergeron was front and center again, this time beating Tim Connolly on a faceoff to Miller’s left. Marco Sturm provided a slight tap back toward the blue line, where Chara was quick to unload a wrister.

The ice a little more open because the clubs were skating four-on-four, Bergeron moved instinctively to the middle, lifted his stick, and provided a winning tip to Chara’s shot.

“In overtime, so much depends on controlling the puck on the faceoff,’’ emphasized Chara. “Sturmie jumped on the puck there and got it to me. And then Bergy got a piece of it. A really innocent, simple play, but those are the plays that so often make the difference.’’

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