BUFFALO -- Week One is over for the Boston Bruins, and it ended here in a sigh last night with a 4-4 overtime tie against the Buffalo Sabres.
Why a sigh?
Because the Week One Bruins showed themselves to be everything they appeared to be in the preseason. They finished their four-game Empire State Sampler (two games with the Rangers, one with the Islanders and one with the Sabres) with a lackluster 1-2-1 record, rooted both in spotty defense and worrisome offense.
"It was a hard-fought game," said Boston coach Rick Bowness, who has inherited a team desperate to find two solid offensive lines. "We'll take the point. At least we put the effort in for 65 minutes."
In all, the Bruins had to battle back from deficits of 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3, finally knotting it on Rosie Ruzicka's rebound knock-in of a Glen Wesley power-play slapper at 11 minutes, 6 seconds of the third period. The Boston power play, a grim 1 for 19 in the first three games, perked up to a respectable 3 for 6. A new line of Bob Carpenter, Craig Janney and Steve Leach -- the No. 1 unit on the power play -- showed signs of respectability and could be a potential starting point for building an offense.
"It's a big thing, obviously, that our power play works," said Petri Skriko, who clicked first on the power play for Boston's only lead 1-0 at 1:02 of the first. "My goal, I finally had to push it over with everything I had. It was right there on the line, and I practically had to throw my stick over the line, too. It hit the goalie's pad, then the post, and finally, I knocked it over."
But Boston's lead was short-lived, as were most of the Buffalo advantages. Working a power play, the slow-starting Sabres (now 0-2-1) evened it when Dave Andreychuk popped one by Andy Moog with only 3:56 gone. Set up by linemate Pierre Turgeon, Andreychuk hit a 10-foot wrister through Moog's pads.
With that, the Bruins said goodbye to an advantage they held for all of 2:54. They then began playing all-night catch-up when Bob Beers handed the puck to Alexander Mogilny high in Boston's defensive end, only to see the star Soviet defector close in and beat Moog with a top-shelf wrister from 20 feet.
"I saw a lot of the shots," said Moog, who had no sight of the final Buffalo goal, a long screen shot by Kevin Haller.
Moog stopped 35 shots, including all five in overtime. The Bruins Bruins didn't put one shot on Clint Malarchuk (31 saves) in the extra five minutes.
"Support. We're moving much better and helping each other -- that's good to see," said Bowness. "It's necessary to survive."
The first of the comebacks came at 3:15 of the second when Wesley rushed in from the blue line and banged in a short pass into the slot by Bob Sweeney. The key to the play was some solid Skriko forechecking in the right corner, enabling Sweeney to swoop behind the net and wheel out from behind the left post with his setup relay to Wesley.
Again, a short-lived breather. This time the Sabres grabbed a 3-2 lead on an Uwe Krupp offspeed hit in the slot. Moog was expecting a sizzler, but instead got a changeup that beat him toward the right post.
"He went to shoot," said Moog, "but it was like he chopped at it and it spun the other way."
But the Bruins were back before intermission to knot it again. Leach banged his way down the left wing board on the man advantage, and there was Janney to take control away from Bodger in the left corner. Janney hustled out to the left post and jammed it by Malarchuk.
Next, the Sabres again, this time with Rick Vaive and Matt Hervey setting an impossible screen for Moog out in the slot on the Sabre power play. Haller let go a low, accurate wrister from 50 feet, and Moog had no read on it, letting in the goal to his right.
"Vaive was there, laying down on the ice," said Moog. "I figured it was unlikely it would go underneath him. So I stayed up . . . and the puck went underneath him."