BOSTON - Bruins coach Claude Julien said the team has a new motto: 'Be Determined - Play To Win.'
He made a sign with the saying, and placed it atop the locker room entrance. Based on Boston's play Thursday night, it appears the team is buying into it. Marco Sturm scored in overtime and added an assist, and the Bruins held off two comebacks to earn a 4-3 victory over the Buffalo Sabres.
"It occurred to me during our West Coast trip earlier in the season," Julien said. "That was a message to our club to play to win no matter who you play against because we've had trouble protecting leads in the past."
Sturm beat Ryan Miller and scored with 52.3 seconds remaining after he redirected a shot from Aaron Ward, who had gently flipped the puck toward the net.
"I was standing in front of the net and got a lucky tip," Sturm said. "We have a lot of big division games coming up so this was a good start."
Said Sabres coach Lindy Ruff: "I think you feel bad anytime a bad goal goes in."
The Bruins were playing in their first game without Patrice Bergeron, who sustained a concussion and broken nose after being checked into the boards from behind by Randy Jones last Saturday against Philadelphia.
Tim Thomas made 27 saves for Boston, who beat the Sabres for the third time in its last 11 home games against Buffalo.
Buffalo's Paul Gaustad scored a power-play goal to tie the game at 3 when he tipped the puck out of the air after a pair of slick passes from Jaroslav Spacek and Ales Kotalik with 11:42 remaining in regulation. Spacek and Kotalik each had two assists for the Sabres.
Marc Savard gave the Bruins a brief 3-2 lead 59 seconds after Buffalo's Brian Campbell had tied the game. Savard pulled up on a 2-on-1 and beat Miller short side 3:08 into the third period.
Glen Metropolit, who also assisted on the game-winner, gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal at 2:07 of the second period. Phil Kessel increased the lead to 2-0 at 7:39 of the second when his shot from the right face-off circle squirted through the legs of Spacek and Miller.
"It didn't seem like they had an identity last year," said Metropolit, who played with St. Louis last season. "The coaching staff has been trying to instill an identity so that we are a hard team to play against."
Maxim Afinogenov eventually cut Boston's lead in half at 2-1 with 2:29 left in the second period after he tapped in a pass from Thomas Vanek. Afinogenov has 33 points in 34 career games against the Bruins.
"It seemed like it took a while until we got going," Sabres defenseman Brian Campbell said. "The winner was a fluky goal and they had some bounces on that play."
Thomas allowed more than two goals for the first time this season.
Buffalo took 14 out of a possible 16 points against Boston last season and Boston last beat Buffalo in regulation Mar. 25, 2006.
Notes: Red Sox owners John Henry and Tom Werner as well as president Larry Lucchino brought the 2004 and 2007 World Series trophies to center ice before the game. ... Boston played its first of nine consecutive games against Northeast Division opponents. ... Goalie Jordan Sigalet was recalled from Providence to replace Manny Fernandez after he suffered a knee strain in practice for Boston. ... Sabres captain Toni Lydman temporarily left the game in the second period after taking a shot by Metropolit in the face.