Drew Stafford has been playing on the same forward line as Thomas Vanek, but the bottom line showed that was hardly possible. While Vanek got off to a record-setting, lamp-lighting start with the Buffalo Sabres, his fellow wingman was languishing at the bottom of the stat sheet with no goals and no points.
So it was time for an audacious move, a move that would get people talking and get Stafford going. It came early in the third period Tuesday, with the Sabres trailing Boston, 2-1.
Stafford carried the puck down the left boards in HSBC Arena, sped past defenseman Dennis Wideman, cut toward the net and beat Zdeno Chara to the crease, then lifted a shot past goaltender Manny Fernandez.
The right winger enthusiastically pumped his fist, and his teammates did the same a short while later to celebrate their 3-2 shootout win.
"It's good for me to get that monkey off the back and get the first one," Stafford said. "But more importantly, we got the win, we got the extra point."
Stafford and the Sabres were happy to talk about his first point. It was an electrifying goal in a game that, for the most part, had as many bright spots as the hallways of Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday.
"I've been trying to get a lot of chances lately, and I'm happy that one went in," Stafford said. "I wanted to put that one in with authority. I might have been a little bit outlandish on the celebration, but whatever, I'll take it."
The goal reminded Sabres coach Lindy Ruff of another momentum-building tally: the famous Jason Pominville short-handed goal that eliminated Ottawa in the 2006 playoffs.
"That's a strong move, that's a courageous move when you can beat a guy and take it to the front because sometimes you're met by the opposite defenseman," Ruff said. "For him to beat their defenseman and cut in, to get the front of the net, that's as strong a move as you can really pull off."
Stafford's night was far from over. He scored in the shootout, improving to 3 for 3 this season. Vanek, kept out of the goal column for the first time in the Sabres' six games, nonetheless found the net with his patented "around the world" shootout goal.
From there, it was all Ryan Miller. He punctuated his superb night by stopping four of the five Boston shootout attempts. Miller made 30 saves, including 15 in the first period.
"I'm happy to help," Miller said. "They got a few shots early, but most of them were plays I could read."
The quick start by Boston was certainly a surprise because it should have been the team getting run. The Bruins were playing the second of back-to-back games and their third in four nights. Yet they seemed fresher than the team that hadn't played since Saturday.
Wideman opened the scoring in the first period with a shot through a screen, and Marc Savard rifled a point-blank shot past Miller on the power play in the second. It ended the Sabres' perfect short-handed start at 26 straight kills.
Buffalo's other special-teams unit quickly made up for the lapse. Captain Craig Rivet skated toward the net on the power play, and Clarke MacArthur tipped Rivet's shot to make the score 2-1 late in the second.
Then it was Stafford's time to make a statement. He made another one in the dressing room with a shot at the Internet pundits who don't think the Sabres have something special going.
"This game is for all the mouse potatoes out there that don't think we can stick with it in a 2-1 game and come back," Stafford said. "It's definitely a big win for the guys."
Bruins 2, SO
Slap shots: Sabres erase second straight two-goal deficit and rally to win in shootout. . . . Miller needs to be sharp early as Boston opens with 16-6 shot lead. . . . Vanek kept out of goal column for first time this season.
Fast fact: The Sabres allowed their first power-play goal of the season. They killed opponents' initial 26 chances.
Next: Minnesota Wild, 8 p.m. Thursday in Xcel Energy Center.