BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Facing elimination in Game 5 of their Stanley Cup Playoff series with the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said before the game, "We have one game to stay alive."
The Sabres outhit the Bruins 35-25, blocked 26 shots to the Bruins' 5, and outscored the B's 4-1 on Friday night to send the series back to Boston -- though the Bruins still lead the best-of-7 series 3-2. Four players scored and eight hit the scoresheet. Jason Pominville and Tyler Ennis led the way with a goal and an assist each, and Ryan Miller made 34 saves.
"We competed the whole game this time and we didn't give them an opportunity to get back into it," said Ruff, whose team blew a pair of 2-0 leads while dropping three in a row following their Game 1 win.
With top scorer Thomas Vanek still out with an injury, Ruff started shooter Nathan Gerbe in hopes of getting more shots and a better power play. Fourteen seconds into Gerbe's first shift, he dumped the puck behind the net, Adam Mair collected it, came out to the right of Boston goalie Tuukka Rask and banked the puck into the net off his skate 1:54 into the game.
"It was nice to get it early. That was our first shift and we were able to get it deep," Mair said.
The Sabres had the Bruins on the run but couldn't get another goal despite several good opportunities. The Bruins were hoping to get to the dressing room down only a goal.
But the Sabres kept their promise to put more pressure on agitating third-line center Vladimir Sobotka. They made it 2-0 at 18:54 when Boston defenseman Andrew Ference elected to make a six-foot pass inside his blue line to Sobotka, who tried to stickhandle laterally inside his blue line. But Ennis stole the puck and Derek Roy fed Pominville in front of the net. Pominville tucked the puck between Rask and his left post for a 2-0 lead. Those were only the second points of the series for both Roy and Pominville.
"Our focus tonight was just battling and playing hard," Ennis said. "When you do that, you turn pucks over. That's what happened and it led to a goal."
"Both goals, there were some mistakes," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "We didn't do a very good job in the first two periods. And the kind of mistakes -- not getting the puck out and bringing the puck back in and turning it over, we had some guys tonight that weren't good enough for us. We're a team that wins when everybody is playing and we need everybody going well. Tonight we didn't have that."
The Sabres certainly did.
"We got in on them," Pominville said. "I think I got a stick on him and then the puck went to Ennis and he dropped it to Derek who made a great play. The goalie kind of bit on it and I just went around him. It was kind of a race to go to the net. The pass was there so once you get in those areas you have to try to put them away. It's fun to get rewarded."
Paul Gaustad took a hooking penalty at 5:10 of the second period, putting the Bruins on the power play. Marco Sturm, like Gaustad, took an offensive-zone penalty, with two seconds left on the power play. The Bruins killed the power play -- but 14 seconds later, Gaustad drew a faceoff back to Mike Grier, who blasted a shot past Rask's glove from just inside the right circle for a 3-0 lead.
The Bruins ended Miller's shutout at 17:30 when Johnny Boychuk scored on a slap shot from the left point. But Buffalo got the goal right back when Ennis outraced Dennis Wideman and dove to swat Pominville's dump-in into the empty net at 18:17.
"I was trying to get there first so I took a whack at it and I was lucky enough to have it go in," said Ennis, Buffalo's first-round pick in 2008, said of his first Stanley Cup Playoff goal.
"Great effort! Fast little guy, huh?" said an admiring Miller. "That was heads up. He almost had a breakaway earlier in the period. ... He's a really smart player and I'm happy that he's been able to contribute."
Miller faced a heavy barrage of shots in the middle of the third period, ending with Grier diving in front of a shot. Grier went to the dressing room for stitching, then returned to play.
"I thought Michael Grier was probably our best player all around," Ruff said. "Even his backcheck on the first opportunity. We've got young kids watching him play and he's one heck of an example.
"I can stand here for the rest of the night, telling you what he means and how he plays," Ruff said. "He probably would have liked to come back without being sewn up. He gets back on the bench and says, 'I'm ready to go.' He's just a warrior. He's like an assistant coach. He's a veteran guy who knows. He just knows how to play, how to compete. He knows that when the game is on the line, you put it on the line."
Ruff was upset by Boston captain Zdeno Chara's actions at the end of the game, when he skated into a scrum and threw punches. Chara received an instigator penalty, a fighting major and a game misconduct -- meaning that unless the instigator call is rescinded, Chara faces a suspension for Game 6.
With or without Chara on the other side, the Sabres are still trying to defy history. They are 0-for-11 when trailing 3-1 in a series. But after their best performance of the postseason, Miller was optimistic.
"I was very satisfied with the effort by our guys," Miller said. "We competed hard in all areas and stuck together. It was a good team effort. It was the kind of game you need to win in the playoffs, and we've definitely made things interesting now."