It was the “Krejci and Recchi Show” in Boston on Monday as the Bruins knocked off the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 to clinch the best-of-seven series and advance to the Eastern Conference semi-finals for the second successive year.
David Krejci scored twice and 42-year-old teammate Mark Recchi had a goal and notched his 75th career playoff assist.
Miroslav Satan also scored for the Bruins, who clinched the series 4-2.
“He showed tonight that he has it, and every time we need someone to step up, he’s the guy,” Czech Olympian Krejci told reporters of Recchi, who first played in the NHL in 1988.
Boston looked to have the game wrapped up at 4-2 in the closing stages but Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek scored with just over a minute to play to put the home crowd on edge.
Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask withstood an onslaught from the Sabres right down to the final buzzer. His coach Claude Julien paid tribute to the Finnish goalkeeper, who outdueled Buffalo’s US Olympic netminder Ryan Miller.
“He was facing arguably the best goaltender in the league. To go up against him head-to-head and come out the winner, I think it speaks volumes,” Julien said. “We managed to hang on, and obviously have a good finish. It was about composure, making the strong plays, and not panicking.”
Boston had fallen behind in each of their previous three wins in the series but jumped out to a two-goal lead on strikes from Krejci and Recchi.
“Tonight was a situation where we had to show our best right from the drop of the puck,” Julien said. “If we could create the lead it would give us a better chance of winning.”
Winger Patrick Kaleta pulled one back for the Sabres in the second period but Krejci restored the Bruins’ two-goal cushion early in the third.
Buffalo’s Nathan Gerbe and Boston’s Satan traded goals before Vanek’s late strike set up the rousing finale.
The Sabres were once again unable to generate anything on the power-play and three missed opportunities on Monday took their record for the series to a miserable 0-19.
“It still ended up being a one-goal hockey game, but the disappointment is huge,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “We’ll have to sort through it and see where we’re at.”
The Bruins will play Philadelphia or Stanley Cup champions Pittsburgh in the next round.
BLACKHAWKS 5, PREDATORS 3
At Nashville, Jonathan Toews scored a power-play goal to cap a wild first period and Chicago held on to eliminate the Predators and advance to the Western Conference semi-finals for the second straight year.
The Blackhawks won the final three games of the series, setting up a second-round matchup with the Vancouver Canucks for the second consecutive season. Nashville has been eliminated in all five postseason appearances on home ice.
Chicago led 4-3 going into the third, where Nashville outshot the Blackhawks 15-3. Rookie goalie Antti Niemi stopped Martin Erat in front with 85 seconds left. Nashville pulled goalie Pekka Rinne with 1:15 remaining, but John Madden scored an empty netter with 7.8 seconds left to seal the victory.
Toews also had an assist. Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp each had a goal and an assist, and Patrick Kane had a goal. Marian Hossa added two assists.
Jason Arnott scored two goals, his only tallies of the series, and Shea Weber had a goal for Nashville.
CANADIENS 4, CAPITALS 1
At Montreal, Jaroslav Halak made 53 saves, and Michael Cammalleri scored twice in the first period for eighth-seeded Montreal, who stayed alive with a victory over Washington and forced a Game 7 in the series.
Halak made 18 saves in the first, 15 in the second, and 19 in the third. He came within 4:50 of his first playoff shutout. Halak won his second straight start despite the top-seeded Capitals’ 54-22 advantage in shots.
Cammalleri put the Canadiens up 1-0 with a power-play goal 7:30 in. He added his second of the game — fifth of the series — at 9:09 to increase the lead to 2-0.
Maxim Lapierre drove a slap shot past Semyon Varlamov from the right side for Montreal’s third goal 3:17 into the third. Tomas Plekanec scored into an empty net with 56.5 seconds remaining.
Eric Fehr scored his third goal at 15:10 on Washington’s 52nd shot to spoil Halak’s shutout bid. It wasn’t enough for the Capitals, who had led the series 3-1.
Game 7 is tonight in Washington.
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