BOSTON -- Too many men on the ice -- a painful reminder of franchise futility for a generation of Bruins and their fans -- is finally a reason to celebrate in Boston.
Miroslav Satan scored a power-play goal after Buffalo was called for having too many men on the ice in the second extra period, and the Bruins beat the Sabres 3-2 at 27:41 of overtime on Wednesday night to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series.
"Finally, it's over," said an exhausted Satan, who was stopped by Olympic MVP Ryan Miller in the first overtime on what seemed like such a sure goal that the scoreboard operator even sounded the horn. "We have a 3-1 lead, so it's a little more breathing space, but the whole series has been good hockey from both sides and great goaltending, and we know that's not going to change."
The Bruins rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the third period to force overtime, and it was still 2-2 when in the second OT when Drew Stafford was caught on the ice as a sixth skater and was unable to scramble back to the bench in time to avoid a penalty. There were just nine seconds left in the power play when Satan got a pass from Michael Ryder in front of the net and put it past Miller.
"I just jumped on. There's not much to say," Stafford said. "It's just so disappointing. It's just disappointing. But we don't have time to dwell on it. We've got to get ready to play."
Tuukka Rask made 35 saves for Boston, and also assisted on Satan's goal.
Miller stopped 36 shots for Buffalo, which earned 100 points and a Northeast Division title in the regular season but now needs a victory in Game 5 on Friday night at home to avoid elimination.
"If they can win three we can win three. But it starts with just winning one, to get ourselves back on track," Miller said, noting that the Sabres have scored first in each of the first four games. "I don't know, for whatever reason we need to protect the lead. Geez, it almost would be better if we got scored on first."
It was an ironic twist for a city in which "too many men on the ice" has for decades conjured memories of their 1979 Stanley Cup semifinal series against the hated Montreal Canadiens. Leading 4-3 in the final minutes of Game 7, the Bruins were called for a bench minor and Guy Lafleur tied it with just over a minute remaining in regulation.
Montreal won it in overtime and went on to win its 22nd NHL championship, and the Bruins remained in a title drought that is now at 37 years and counting.
Former Bruins coach Don Cherry is still remembered for that in Boston, and Sabres coach Lindy Ruff took the blame on Wednesday.
"Ultimately, when there's too many men on the ice, it's the coach's fault," said Ruff, who did not dispute that call but complained about the goalie interference that led to Boston's first goal. "We didn't blow it. Nobody blew it."
Tim Kennedy and Steve Montador scored for Buffalo, which opened a 2-0 lead after two periods. David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron scored in the third period for Boston to send the game into overtime.
Both goalies made stunning saves to keep their teams in the game.
Rask reached out to knock away a puck that even six-foot-nine defenceman Zdeno Chara couldn't reach, preserving the tie with 11 minutes left in regulation. Miller stopped Blake Wheeler on a short-handed breakaway, then got a glove on a sneaky backhander from Satan early in the first overtime.
Miller surprised even the scoreboard operator, who sounded the goal horn briefly.
But they were off to another overtime.
In the second extra period, Miller took a shot from Milan Lucic off the chest protector and doubled over in pain. Just 31 seconds later, the Sabres were caught with too many men on the ice, and though Stafford did a quick about-face to scramble back to the bench, it was too late.
For the fourth straight game, the Sabres scored first, and they took a 2-0 lead with seven minutes gone in the second when Montador's slapshot from the point was deflected by traffic in front of the net past Rask. The Sabres were 30-0 in the regular season when leading after two periods, but Boston snapped the streak in Game 2 when it rallied from a 3-2 deficit with three third-period goals to win and swipe away home-ice advantage.
And the Bruins did it again in Game 4.
With about two minutes gone in the third, Cody McCormick slammed into Rask trying to outrace a defender for a puck and was sent off for goalie interference. Eight seconds into the power play, Krejci picked up a rebound in the slot, moved himself to the right and shot it past Miller before he could get back into position.
With 13:20 left in regulation, Bergeron came up with the puck to Miller's right and fired it past him, just inside the far post. Buffalo called a timeout and settled down, preserving the tie into overtime.
Mike Grier nearly gave Buffalo back the lead when he shot at the open side of the net -- past Chara -- with 11 minutes left in regulation. But Rask, diving behind his defenceman, got his blocker on the puck to knock it away.
NOTES: The last goalie to assist on an overtime playoff goal was Dominik Hasek for Detroit at Colorado on May 22, 2002, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. ... Satan also scored the winner for Buffalo against Ottawa in the second overtime of a 1999 playoff game. ... The Bruins honoured the NCAA championship team from Boston College during a first-period break. BC won its fourth title with a 5-0 victory over Wisconsin on April 10. ... McCormick, recalled from Portland of the AHL on Tuesday, assisted on the Sabres' first goal. ... Buffalo's Thomas Vanek missed his second straight game with a high ankle sprain. He was seen in the elevator wearing a boot before Game 4. ... The Sabres were 0 for 2 on the power play, and are 0 for 14 in the series.