For the first time all season, the Buffalo Sabres are riddled with injuries. Didn't matter Monday as they continued their charge to a division title and put a crimp on the Boston Bruins' playoff push.
The Sabres get full marks for a 3-2 win over the desperate Beantowners at TD Garden as they extended their lead in the Northeast Division to seven points over idle Ottawa with seven games to play. They also pulled within a point of Pittsburgh for second place in the East.
Goals from Tyler Myers, Paul Gaustad and Tim Kennedy wiped out a game-opening tally from Boston's David Krejci and put Buffalo in control. The trio of tallies was also enough to withstand Dennis Seidenberg's goal with 5:37 left that set up a frantic finish.
Ryan Miller made 40 saves, including a penalty-shot stoning of Marco Sturm three minutes in and an on-the-doorstep stop on Mark Recchi in the final three seconds. The Sabres have won six of their last seven games and four in a row on the road, equaling their season high.
Buffalo played without forwards Raffi Torres, Patrick Kaleta, Thomas Vanek and Tim Connolly. Torres is the closest to returning.
Meanwhile, about an hour before the opening faceoff, the Sabres announced Kaleta will be out a minimum of two weeks after having surgery on his thumb earlier in the day.
A lineup featuring Portland callups Tyler Ennis, Nathan Gerbe and Mark Mancari didn't miss a beat. The trio combined for six shots, had an even rating and Gerbe even snuffed a good scoring chance with a sliding stop of a pass from behind the net.
"We substituted guys who are hungry to prove their position for the future of this team," Miller said. "They've done a good job filling in and injecting energy."
During the first intermission, General Manager Darcy Regier confirmed to The News that Kaleta will miss the remainder of the regular season and is iffy for the start of the playoffs.
"The two weeks is a real minimum number so I hope that's all it is," Regier said. " . . . Hopefully it's not more."
Regier was more optimistic on Connolly and Vanek, both of whom had lower-body injuries re-examined Monday. It's hoped they'll be ready for the playoff opener, if not sooner.
"Whether it's days or a week, maybe a little more, but that's the timeframe," Regier said. "That's as good as I can do as a doctor right now."
Miller badly outplayed Olympic backup Tim Thomas, who was pulled after after giving up three goals on 13 shots.
Myers got Buffalo even at 1-1 at 9:56 of the first with a 50-foot floater from the right boards. It stemmed the Bruins' from-the-gate momentum that included some ferocious forechecking.
"I noticed the puck was rolling a bit and I basically just decided to whack at it and luckily it found a hole," Myers said.
"A smart play to get it to the net," Miller said. "They like to block a lot and he took a quick shot before they could get established and knock it down. . . . From there, we did a nice job of getting pucks to the net."
Gaustad's goal at 11:34 of the first came after Thomas gave up a huge rebound and Kennedy dribbled a shot home at 6:08 of the second on the tail end of a 2-on-1 with Derek Roy.
"It was a really big one for us, especially with the spot [the Bruins] are in and the desperation they have to play with," Myers said. "A huge road win. Our new guys stepped up and our veterans played really well, too."
Sabres 3, Boston 2
Slap shots: Goals by Myers, Gaustad, Kennedy spark fourth straight road win. ... Miller makes 40 saves, including Sturm on penalty shot. ... Sabres announce Kaleta likely out for rest of regular season after thumb surgery.
Fast fact: The Sabres improved to an NHL-best 27-0-0 when leading through two periods.
Next game: Wednesday vs. Florida Panthers, 7 p.m. in HSBC Arena