Jason Pominville and Tyler Ennis each had a goal and an assist and goalie Ryan Miller held the opposition without a goal for 57 minutes as the Buffalo Sabres easily avoided elimination in a 4-1 home victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night.
The Sabres raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first on goals from Adam Mair and Pominville, and unlike in earlier series games, made it stick. Mike Grier snapped a shot into the net in the second and Ennis dove for a loose puck to seal the result with an empty-net goal.
Miller finished with 34 saves, with Johnny Boychuk spoiling his shutout bid on a power-play slapshot with 2:30 remaining.
"They definitely came out hard in the third, I think they were trying to establish that they don't have any quit in them either, but I thought for the most part we handled it really well," said Miller. "We got in the [shooting] lanes, we supported each other, there was two or three guys around the puck at all times, and it made it tough for them to get inside."
Tuukka Rask made 29 saves for Boston, which leads the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final series 3-2.
The teams were coming off a thrilling double-overtime contest won by Boston, but Game 5's lack of excitement mattered little to the fans at HSBC Arena. They will get to see Buffalo skate another day, with the series resuming in Boston on Monday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).
"They never told you which order you had to win in," said Miller.
"Now that they've seen our best game, they're going to have to react to our best game," he added.
Ennis scored Buffalo's first third-period goal in the series. The only thing left for Buffalo to strike off the list is a power-play goal. The Sabres are 0-for-16 on the power play, although it was only a matter of bad luck that prevented them from breaking that streak in the second period.
Boston squandered three power plays before the Boychuk goal and is just 3-for-15 with the man advantage.
The Bruins have several forwards still looking for a goal in the series, including Marco Sturm, Milan Lucic, Daniel Paille and Blake Wheeler.
"We had some guys tonight that weren't good enough for us and we're a team that wins when everybody's playing well and we need everyone going and tonight we didn't have that," said Boston coach Claude Julien.
The Bruins will also have to wait to see what happens regarding the instigator penalty Zdeno Chara drew in a scrum that took place just before time expired. Chara could be in line for supplemental discipline that would cause him to miss Game 6, unless NHL officials believe Paul Gaustad's slash led to Chara's aggression.
Boston immediately tested Miller after the opening puck drop, with the Sabres goalie responding with a left pad save on David Krejci.
For the fifth consecutive time in the series, Buffalo had a 1-0 lead within the first nine minutes of the game, and it came from the fourth line. The Bruins couldn't clear the puck out of their end, and Mair's wraparound went off Rask's skate and in at 1:54.
Cody McCormick marked his second assist in two playoff games for the Sabres, with Nathan Gerbe also notching a point.
Former Sabre Daniel Paille hit the post for Boston, with each team again fizzling on the power play.
With less than two minutes left in the period, Buffalo's top line finally found the mark. Boston again lost the puck inside their blue-line, with Derek Roy capitalizing and finding Pominville in front of Rask. Pominville deked the Boston goalie for a 2-0 lead at 18:54.
"[The first two] goals there was some mistakes on those, there's no doubt," said Julien. "We didn't do a very good job in the first two periods and [made] mistakes — not getting the puck out, bringing the puck in and turning it back over."
The Sabres swarmed on a power play midway through the second. Ennis was among three players to hit the post, and when Tim Connolly slipped the puck behind Rask, defenceman Zdeno Chara cleared it before it reached the goal-line.
The Sabres were winning key faceoffs against Boston, and it paid off with a goal at 9:22. Connolly's winning draw went to Grier, who fired a shot off the post and in for Buffalo's first three-goal lead of the series.
"Every game he's had some sort of impact and he's definitely been the guy on our team to look to for setting the tone," Miller said of Grier.
The Bruins got some shots on Miller on their third power play of the game late in the period, but nothing particularly troubling for the Vezina Trophy finalist.
Boston continued to sleepwalk despite the large deficit, with young Buffalo forwards Gerbe and Ennis forcing Rask to make significant saves to prevent further damage.
"The young guys have been terrific for us," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.
"Tyler Ennis's game, he's learning from different situations on the ice," Ruff added. "He has a helluva lot of fun playing, I'll just tell you that. For a guy his size trying to run over guys twice his size, it just puts a smile on a coach's face."
Defenceman Matt Hunwick provided Boston's best chance to score in nearly two periods midway through the third, but Miller stopped the puck with his chest. Grier took a shot off his helmet seconds later, but was eventually able to skate off under his own power.
Miller then got enough of his blocker on Paille's shot after a dash down the right side before Boychuk denied him the shutout.
The game ended with the prolonged scrum involving the players on the ice, with four misconduct penalties handed out.