BUFFALO, N.Y. – Ryan Miller was the Buffalo Sabres’ difference maker throughout the regular season. Turns out his role hasn’t changed in the playoffs.

Miller was remarkable in making 38 saves — including 23 in the second period — in the Sabres’ 2-1 playoff-opening victory over the Boston Bruins on Thursday night

“When he’s at the top of his game, we’re a very, very difficult team to play against,” captain Craig Rivet said.

After Miller helped the Sabres weather the Bruins’ offensive storm for most of the second period, Rivet regained the momentum by scoring on a slap shot from the right circle to break a 1-1 tie with under 6 minutes left in the period.

“I haven’t scored a lot of goals,” said the veteran defenseman who has four goals in 64 playoff game.

“When you have a chance to chip in and help your team, it feels real good.”

Thomas Vanek also scored for the Northeast Division champion Sabres, making their first playoff appearance in three years.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarterfinal series is Saturday in Buffalo.

Mark Recchi scored for the Bruins, and Tuukka Rask was solid in making 30 saves.

The tight margin of victory was no surprise in a game between two division rivals, and two goalies who finished the regular season first and second in goals against and save percentage.

The difference was the second period, in which the Bruins out-shot the Sabres 24-8 but found themselves trailing 2-1.

“That happens. But there’s too many positives to worry about that right now,” Recchi said. “We’re upset we lost, but there’s too many good things that happened.”

It was a game of shifting momentum, with the Sabres controlling the tempo and buzzing the net through most of the first period. Buffalo was rewarded when Vanek snapped in Roy’s drop pass on a two-on-one rush at 4:52.

The Bruins responded in the second period. Recchi finally beat Miller with a power-play goal at 9:30, converting a rebound from the slot.

Rivet’s goal, on what began as an innocent rush by rookie Tim Kennedy, snuffed the Bruins’ momentum. Gaining the Bruins blue line, Kennedy attracted two Boston defenders before he fed the puck to a wide-open Rivet in the right circle. With teammate Patrick Kaleta providing a screen, Rivet blasted a shot into the top far corner.

“Whether you lose 10-1 or 2-1, it’s a loss,” Bruins Coach Claude Julien said. “We played hard enough, we played well enough, but only one team’s going to come out with a win. They did tonight.”

The Sabres regained their composure in the third period, allowing only six shots. Miller was tested once, stopping David Krejci’s shot off a partial breakaway, then preventing the center from shoving in the rebound.

All in a day’s work for Miller, who admitted to being a little tired after the second period.

“We’re not going to have every period go our way,” Miller said. “But to respond and get a goal back and then hold the lead in the third period, it’s really positive.”

The game turned chippy 15 minutes in after Bruins captain Zdeno Chara cross-checked Kaleta from behind, into the boards behind the Boston net. That started a series of scuffles involving all 10 skaters, with several punches being thrown.

Chara was issued a double-minor for boarding and roughing, but inexplicably left the penalty box after serving only 2 minutes. Officials didn’t notice until there was a minute left in the second penalty, when Chara was sent back to the box.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.