BUFFALO — Conjuring memories of playoff series between the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins from decades past, Thursday’s Game 1 was filled with chippy play as the hosts took a 1-0 series lead at HSBC Arena.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff attempted to set the tone by starting the physical line of Mike Grier, Adam Mair and Paul Gaustad, and things escalated throughout the first period.
Boston giant Zdeno Chara got tangled with Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek and the latter got slammed to the ice, but no call came from the officials. Also in the first period, a melee broke out after Chara cross-checked Patrick Kaleta behind the Boston net. Toni Lydman, Steve Montador and Raffi Torres all collected penalties in the scrum while Chara and Milan Lucic were each tagged with double minors. Kaleta received a 10-minute misconduct.
“That was high intensity,” Lindy Ruff said. “We expected intensity. Somebody mentioned they felt a little friction even before the series started. I think we got a little bit there early.”
Boston coach Claude Julien insisted that Kaleta did not get under the skin of Chara,
“It’s going to take more than (Kaleta),” Julien said. “This is Zdeno’s third playoffs with me and every year they go after him. I don’t think he’s going to be wasting his time with somebody who just sees a little bit of ice.”
The Sabres were clearly lucky to get out of the second period with the lead, considering that the hosts got outshot 24-8 in the stanza. It marked the most shots allowed in a period of a playoff game since Buffalo watched Chicago do the same on April 20, 1980. The Sabres went on to win that game, 3-2, to complete a sweep of the second-round series between the two teams.
But Buffalo finished the regular season with the best record after taking a lead into the second intermission, winning all 30 times when they did so and the trend continued in the opening playoff game.