BOSTON – Drew Stafford scored the only shootout goal after Buffalo tied the game in the final minute of regulation, and the Sabres beat the Bruins 3-2 on Wednesday night in the first pro game in Boston since the Marathon bombings Monday.
The Sabres forced overtime with 26.6 seconds left when Cody Hodgson scored his 14th goal of the season, tipping in Thomas Vanek’s pass into the slot during a power play.
Boston still clinched a playoff berth by gaining one point. The Bruins are tied in points with Montreal atop the Northeast Division, but have one game in hand on the Canadiens. Both teams trail Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh by nine points.
There was heightened security at TD Garden where cars entering the garage were searched, and fans were checked with wands and patted down.
There was a pregame period of silence and a slideshow of scenes from the Boston Marathon in which three people died and more than 170 were wounded when two bombs went off near the finish line Monday.
The Bruins quickly gave their fans something to cheer about when Daniel Paille scored his ninth goal of the season just 5:15 in. Vanek tied it with his Buffalo-leading 17th goal on a power play at 18:20 of the first. Chris Kelly then scored the go-ahead goal, his third tally of the season, at 14:48 of the second.
Boston moved into second place in the Eastern Conference with 57 points and six games left. The Canadiens, who lost to Pittsburgh earlier Wednesday, have five games remaining.
In the shootout, Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand missed for Boston. Buffalo’s first two shooters, Vanek and Nathan Gerbe, also were stopped before Stafford beat Anton Khudobin.
Before the game, Bruins Coach Claude Julien said, “The best thing we can do is to make things better for the people of Boston. Sports is a great way to pull people together. Just going out there, making the city proud of their team, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Paille beat Sabres goalie Ryan Miller after Kelly passed the puck from the left corner. Paille lifted it from about 5 feet into a narrow space between the near post and Miller’s right shoulder.
The crowd cheered: “Let’s go Boston. We are Boston.”
Vanek tied the game when he tipped Christian Ehrhoff’s shot from just in front of the blue line past Khudobin.
Then Kelly and Paille teamed up again. Paille had the puck in the left corner and passed it across the slot. Kelly shot it over the left pad of Miller, who had sprawled to try to stop Paille’s pass.
PENGUINS 6, CANADIENS 4: Brenden Morrow scored two goals for the second straight game and host Pittsburgh moved closer to clinching the top seed in the East.
Brandon Sutter added two goals for Pittsburgh, and newly acquired Jarome Iginla and Doug Murray also scored for the Penguins, who had little trouble with the Canadiens despite playing without injured stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 31 shots and Pittsburgh dominated in racing to a quick 4-0 lead.
The reeling Canadiens have lost three straight. Peter Budaj started in goal but was pulled after stopping just six of the nine shots in the first period.
Carey Price relieved and allowed three goals on 20 shots, absorbing the loss.
DEATH: Pentti Lund, the first Finnish-born player to score a goal in the NHL and the 1948-49 rookie of the year with the New York Rangers, died in his hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario. He was 87.
SUSPENDED: The NHL suspended Montreal Canadiens forward Ryan White for five games without pay for a check to the head of Philadelphia defenseman Kent Huskins during the Flyers’ 7-3 victory Monday. The Flyers said Huskins sustained a concussion.