BOSTON (AP) — Mark Recchi charged into the right corner with the game and the puck up for grabs.
The Bruins’ 42-year-old forward outmuscled 23-year-old Tim Kennedy and passed to Patrice Bergeron, who got off a quick shot from the low right circle. It was too quick for Sabres star goalie Ryan Miller.
That goal with 7:03 left in the game broke a tie and gave Boston a 2-1 win on Monday night and a 2-1 lead over Buffalo in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference playoffs.
“That was a veteran play, for sure,” Bergeron said. “He went in that corner with one thing in mind, to win that battle.”
Kennedy was at the end of his shift and “didn’t have much left in the tank,” Buffalo coach Lindy Ruff said.
With about a 20-pound weight advantage over the rookie, Recchi had a plan in mind as he raced into the corner behind the Sabres’ net.
“He was trying to lean into me and I got him just enough to knock him off balance,” said Recchi, a veteran of 154 playoff games with five teams. “I was fortunate to keep control of the puck, which is more what I was concerned about. I needed to create a little bit of a gap so I could make a play. I was lucky he fell to give me a little bit more time.”
Miller, the starting goalie on the United States team that won the silver medal at the Winter Olympics, got a piece of Bergeron’s shot. It wasn’t enough.
“I just tried to step out and take a lane,” Miller said. “He got all of it. For me it was trying to take it in the right spot. I didn’t get it in the right spot. I got a little arm on it.”
The sixth-seeded Bruins are home again for Game 4 on Wednesday night.
“We win that game, we’re back in our own building with momentum,” Ruff said.
Mike Grier had given third-seeded Buffalo a 1-0 lead at 6:57 of the first period before Dennis Wideman tied the game less than 9 minutes later.
The Sabres couldn’t make up for the loss of Thomas Vanek, their top goal scorer with 28. He missed the game after leaving Game 2 on Saturday, a 5-3 win by the Bruins, in the first period with a lower body injury. Jochen Hecht, who had 21 goals, is expected to miss two weeks after pinkie surgery.
Buffalo was 0 for 3 on its power plays and is scoreless in 12 opportunities in the series.
“With the personnel we are missing, we are going to struggle offensively,” Ruff said.
Boston goalie Tuukka Rask contributed to those problems with 32 saves.
“He made some great saves to keep us in the game, particularly at the end of the game to keep us from going into overtime,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said.
Miller preserved the 1-1 tie, temporarily, at 3:12 of the third period with a sprawling glove save on a shot by Michael Ryder from the lower edge of the left circle.
The Bruins continued their resurgence at home with their third straight win. After beating Philadelphia 2-1 in the Winter Classic at Fenway Park on New Year’s Day, they lost 10 straight games at TD Garden, their regular home.
Sabres left wing Matt Ellis was leveled at his blue line by Johnny Boychuk with 5:40 gone in the second period. Ellis was carrying the puck when the collision occurred. He got up and skated slowly, with his stick left behind on the ice, to the bench and continued to the locker room but returned to the game.
“It kinds of gives the whole team a little boost,” Boychuck said of his crowd-pleasing hit.
Monday’s game was well played with fast skating and strong defensive play by the forwards.
Grier got the game’s first goal with a quick shot from the left circle. The Sabres brought the puck up the left side of the ice with Raffi Torres getting it at the left point. He passed it to Grier, who scored his first goal of this year’s playoffs with a shot to Rask’s left side.
Boston tied it at 15:17 of the period on Wideman’s first career playoff goal on a 40-foot shot from right in front of Miller. Vladimir Sobotka fed him a drop pass from the right circle and Wideman slapped the puck to the right of Miller’s stick.
The tie lasted until Recchi beat Kennedy in the critical one-on-one battle.
“He’s such a warrior,” Bergeron said. “He gives us a chance to win every time he steps on the ice.”
NOTES: Buffalo’s Drew Stafford played for the first time since suffering a concussion April 10. … Marc Savard, the Bruins’ top playmaker, skated Monday morning for the first time since sustaining a Grade 2 concussion on March 7 on a blindside hit by Matt Cooke of Pittsburgh. He said he feels “normal.” He will be cleared to play if he passes a neuropsych test Tuesday but will have to get back in game shape, the club said. … Hannah Kearney of Norwich, Vt., who got the first gold medal for the United States at the Vancouver Olympics by winning the women’s moguls, attended the game. … Boston won its second straight playoff game against Buffalo after losing seven in a row.