Craig Rivet's slapshot goal late in a period otherwise controlled by the Boston Bruins was enough to see the Buffalo Sabres through to a 2-1 home victory in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final.
Rivet beat Boston goalie Tuukka Rask at 14:10 in the second period of the battle between Northeast Division rivals, just under five minutes after Mark Recchi had tied the game for the Bruins.
Buffalo sniper Thomas Vanek had put the Sabres on the board early in the first with a snapshot goal.
Ryan Miller finished with 38 saves, bailing his team out as Boston outshot the Sabres 24-8 in the second period.
"We said it was going to be tight, we expected probably a low-scoring game, we expected intensity," said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff.
The Sabres won in their return to playoff hockey after missing the postseason the past two years.
Game 2 will take place at HSBC Arena in Buffalo on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday afternoon (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 1 p.m. ET).
Ramsay taken to hospital
Bruins assistant coach Craig Ramsay was taken by ambulance to a Buffalo hospital where he was diagnosed with the flu prior to the game.
Ramsay, who spent all 14 seasons as a player with the Sabres beginning in 1971, was feeling ill about an hour before the game and walked to the ambulance under his own power.
Assistant Doug Houda, who usually watches the game from the press box, filled Ramsay's role behind the bench.
Boston coach Claude Julien said after the game Ramsay should be fine.
Miller was forced to be sharp early in the first on a Miroslav Satan chance.
Not long after Miller's save, Vanek took a drop pass from Derey Roy and snapped it low past Rask at 4:52. Roy set up the play by burning past Matt Hunwick in the neutral zone.
Vanek has six goals in his last three games.
There was a prolonged scrum involving the players on the ice at 15:14 after a Zdeno Chara cross check, with six players in total heading off to the penalty box.
"We were starting to run around and look for hits, we didn't want any puck possession," Ruff said. "That's OK, but the puck's important too at times."
The end result was a Buffalo power play, but aside from a few anxious seconds, Boston killed it off well. The Bruins began to assert themselves more in the Sabres' end, but Bergeron couldn't beat Miller on the short side.
Boston quickly asserted control in the second.
Bruins forward Michael Ryder re-directed a shot past Miller but off the crossbar, while Johnny Boychuk hit the post. Bergeron was again stymied, this time on a rebound chance from the slot.
"They came out flying, they were skating really well," Myers said. "Being down a goal I think it triggered them to pick up their game. Obviously we got outworked in the second. and don't want that. There's going to periods like that, we're going to have to accept that.
"It's just a matter of working through it and getting back to playing our game and for the most part we responded really well in the third."
Toni Lydman went off for cross checking near the midway point of the period, and Boston finally converted. Chara's second big slapshot of the power play was kicked to 42-year-old Recchi, who put the puck under the crossbar at 9:44.
"We have a pretty good setup on our power play now — the last couple games of the season — and it works pretty good," Recchi told HNIC at the second intermission. "I was just coming off the high cycle and was fortunate to get it up over him."
When Sturm forced Miller to freeze the puck nearly two minutes later, the Bruins had already amassed 20 shots for the period.
But all it takes is one mistake, and Sabres forward Tim Kennedy helped take advantage of a neutral zone turnover to set up shop in Boston's end. Rivet drove a blast from the right circle just inside the left post.
"Where he shot it from we could see it from the bench [but] Tuukka couldn't see it, he was screened," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "Definitely was a good goal, top corner. We still had lots of time to get back into but unfortunately we found ourselves in the [penalty] box in the third and certainly made it harder for us to get momentum."
After Rivet's goal Buffalo twice had odd-man rushes that saw the puck bounce away before a clean shot was registered.
Buffalo defence stifling
Buffalo had a perfect 30-0-0 record during the season after leading in the second, and they displayed their stifling tendencies in the third.
With just seven minutes left in the frame, the teams had combined for just 10 shots and the Sabres seldom seemed interested in pursuing offensive chances.
Buffalo enjoyed successive power plays late in the third, but Rask gave his team a chance to win by making a pad save on fellow rookie Tyler Myers. Rask finished with 30 saves.
Boston pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker but could not get a clean shot on Miller.
Boston had veteran defenceman Andrew Ference back in after he missed several games with a groin injury, but fellow blue-liners Dennis Seidenberg and Mark Stuart aren't expected to play in this series.
Forwards Drew Stafford and Jochen Hecht did not play for Buffalo, but Tim Connolly was in the lineup after missing several late season games.