Buffalo Sabres defenseman Toni Lydman, left, of Finland, re-directs the puck on its way past Boston Bruins goalie Alex Auld, right, for a goal while being checked by Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara, center, of Slovakia, during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Buffalo, N.Y. on Sunday, March 30, 2008. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Don Heupel
BUFFALO, N.Y. - Andrej Sekera was unsure whether his 50-foot shot that sealed the Buffalo Sabres' victory hit anyone on its way into the net. The rookie defenceman also didn't care.
All that mattered was Sekera's goal - scored 39 seconds into overtime - sealed a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins on Sunday, and kept alive Buffalo's threadbare playoff hopes entering the final week of the season. A loss in their regular-season home finale, and the Sabres would've been done.
"It's an awesome feeling, it's unbelievable, I can't describe it," Sekera said. "But the most important point is we get the two points. We're not dead yet."
No, but they're still barely alive. With 86 points and three games left, Buffalo remains in 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings, five points back of a three-team logjam for sixth place that now includes the Bruins.
"We're not going to get ahead of ourselves," said Ryan Miller, who made 17 saves. "We're going to need some help, but we have to help ourselves first or else it's all a moot point."
Thomas Vanek set up the decisive goal, driving up the left wing before coming to a stop in the circle and feeding Sekera, who was trailing just inside the blue line. Sekera then one-timed a 50-footer that glanced off Boston forward Glen Murray and caromed in off the left post behind Alex Auld.
The goal was only the second of Sekera's career. He was called up from the minors earlier this month to bolster a banged-up defense, that's still minus two regulars.
Defenceman Toni Lydman also scored for Buffalo midway through the first period, while Boston rookie David Krejci opened the scoring with a short-handed goal less than three minutes in.
The Bruins, coming off a 4-0 win against Ottawa on Saturday, had a three-game winning streak snapped, but still gained a key point in their attempt to secure their first playoff berth in three seasons.
"It's been a good week for us," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "If somebody would have told me that we had a chance for seven out of eight points this week, we certainly would have taken it."
The Bruins have 91 points and moved into a tie with the New York Rangers, who have one game in hand, and Philadelphia. Boston has three games left, and next plays at New Jersey on Wednesday and at Ottawa on Friday.
The playoff picture, though, potentially won't be determined until Saturday, when the Sabres and Bruins close their respective seasons at Boston.
Auld said the Bruins can only worry about themselves.
"It's not like we're the only team Buffalo's chasing," said Auld, who made 28 saves, including three key stops in the final 2:30 of regulation. "It would have been great to put another team out of the picture, but they're still here and give them credit for their battle."
In making his first start in two weeks, Auld was sharp and made his best save with a 80 seconds left in regulation. Auld was falling backward but got his glove up to bat down Paul Gaustad's shot from the right circle.
The Sabres bounced back after a 4-3 overtime loss to Montreal on Friday, a game in which Buffalo squandered a 3-1 lead in the final three minutes.
And yet, for a team in desperate need of a victory, Buffalo got off to a terrible start when Krejci capped a two-on-one rush after intercepting Maxim Afinogenov's weak pass into the middle in the Bruins' end.
Lydman tied it with a power-play goal eight minutes later, when he sneaked in behind Zdeno Chara in the slot and tapped in Gaustad's centering pass.
The Bruins mustered few scoring chances and managed just nine shots through 39 minutes.
Their best chance came during another short-handed chance in the final seconds of the second period. Miller made the initial stop on a shot tipped by Marco Sturm in front. Miller than dived across the crease to foil Krejci's attempt to convert the rebound.
The win was all that mattered to Sabres captain Jason Pominville.
"We won the game. We're not going to start nitpicking," Pominville said. "We had that sense of urgency. ... We played well from start to finish. We deserved to win."
Notes: Krejci extended his point streak to four games, in which the rookie center has eight points (three goals, five assists). ... The game marked the earliest the Sabres have completed their home schedule. Buffalo closes its season with three road games, starting Tuesday at Toronto. ... The Sabres are attempting to avoid missing the playoffs for the fourth time this decade, which would be the most in a decade since the franchise was established in 1970.
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