BUFFALO, N.Y. – Coach Lindy Ruff spoke softly on the day after one of the most difficult losses in Buffalo Sabres history. He was ruffled still, maybe, but optimistic nonetheless.

“The game was right there. We have to finish,” Ruff said Thursday while the Sabres practiced at HSBC Arena. “Our key players are going to have to make a difference, and they haven’t yet. We know with our goaltender we can crawl back.”

The Sabres suffered a crushing defeat Wednesday night in Boston, losing 3-2 in double overtime to the Bruins on a power-play goal by former Sabres star Miroslav Satan to fall behind 3-1 in the seven-game series. What made the loss so tough was that Boston got the decisive power play in the second extra period when the Sabres were caught with too many men on the ice.

Buffalo enters Game 5 at home tonight on the brink of elimination despite having trailed for less than 20 minutes in the first four games. The Sabres were 31-6-4 in the regular season when scoring first but are 1-3 in this series. They were 30-0-0 when entering the third period with a lead during the season but are 1-2 against Boston after squandering a 2-0 lead in their latest setback.

“It’s a little bit frustrating. In two of the four games we’ve been up by two goals,” Sabres captain Craig Rivet said. “We’ve been a real, real solid team all season long playing with the lead, playing with confidence. We’ve hit a bit of adversity right now, something we’re going to try to battle through.

“We just feel that if we continue to play like we did last game we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win the next game. We’re dealing with it. We can’t turn back time and hope for something different. We have to go out and change it, and it’s going to start with the next game.”

Injured left wing Thomas Vanek, the Sabres’ leading goal scorer, skated for about 45 minutes Thursday and said his left foot was feeling better, but his status for Game 5 is uncertain.

The Bruins are anticipating perhaps their stiffest test in what has been a grueling first-round series.

“Those are the toughest games to win, the elimination games,” Bruins winger Blake Wheeler said. “It’s going to be a huge challenge for us, even more so than the last four games have been. It’s going to take even a little bit more than the last few games to pull it out.”

“We know they’re going to come out and play fighting for their lives,” said Boston’s Milan Lucic. “I mean, we were in their position last year and the year before, so we expect their best. We need to take our game to another notch.”


NOTES: The Sabres recalled eight players from the Portland Pirates — goalies Jhonas Enroth and J.P. Lamoureux, defensemen Mike Weber, Marc-Andre Gragnani and Mike Kostka, and forwards Philip Gogulla, Nathan Gerbe and Mark Mancari.


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