BUFFALO, N.Y. – Bruins coach Claude Julien didn’t get too worked up when Boston squandered a shot at winning the Presidents’ Trophy.
The Eastern Conference title will have to do for the Bruins, who lost 6-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday night.
“We didn’t have our heads into it,” said Julien, whose team came out flat in falling behind 4-0 before the game was 18 minutes old. “It would’ve been nice, but we’re not going to cry over spilled milk.”
The Bruins (52-19-10) will end their regular season at the New York Islanders on Sunday, but their loss to Buffalo allowed San Jose to clinch the Presidents’ Trophy.
Better to be in the playoffs than out, such as the Sabres, who produced a gutty effort in their season finale after being eliminated on Thursday.
The frustration of missing the playoffs for a second straight year was evident in the Sabres’ locker room.
Thomas Vanek was in no mood to celebrate his two-goal outing, which allowed him to reach the 40-goal plateau.
“It doesn’t mean anything. Before the year, my goal was to help this team and lead them to the playoffs. And that goal failed,” said Vanek, who added an assist. “The last few days, it’s just been a little bit of a daze; frustrating and trying to reflect what went wrong.”
Jason Pominville lamented how the team’s 7-2-1 finish didn’t push Buffalo over the top.
“We put a pretty good run here at the end, but not good enough,” the forward said. “We dug ourselves into that kind of hole. … We were inconsistent. It just wasn’t good enough.”
Mikael Tellqvist made 33 saves, and Tim Connolly and Matt Ellis had a goal and assist each for the Sabres (41-32-9). Daniel Paille and Chris Butler also scored for Buffalo.
Mark Recchi spoiled Tellqvist’s bid for a shutout by deflecting in Matt Hunwick’s point shot with 6:05 remaining.
Boston prepared for the post-season by resting several regulars, including captain Zdeno Chara and starting goalie Tim Thomas. Phil Kessel, who leads the team with 33 goals, also didn’t play because of the flu.
The Bruins avoided a big scare in the first period when Dennis Wideman, second among Boston defencemen with 49 points, limped off after being struck in the left leg by Drew Stafford’s shot. Wideman missed the final six minutes of the period before returning in the second.
Julien didn’t rule out resting more players on Sunday because there is nothing at stake.
“They were extremely professional about their approach to the game,” Julien said of the Sabres. “They’ve got my respect for the way they conducted themselves.”
The Sabres took control by scoring four times on their first 16 shots to build 4-0 lead 17:08 in when Paille pushed in a loose puck that had gotten behind Manny Fernandez. The goal came 1:25 after Vanek one-timed Pominville’s cross-ice pass to convert a 2-on-1 break.
Connolly opened the scoring 3:34 in by flipping in a rebound after Fernandez stopped Vanek’s shot from the left circle. Butler made it 2-0 with a rising shot from the left point.
Sabres fans weren’t happy. Even as the win was apparent, fans spent most of the third period calling for the team to fire general manager Darcy Regier and coach Lindy Ruff.
Sabres managing partner Larry Quinn said management would take time to “thoroughly evaluate” the entire season and added it was premature to make rash decisions.
Buffalo defenceman Teppo Numminen had an assist in what could be his final NHL game. Numminen grew emotional following the game but declined to discuss his future plans after completing his 20th season.
Notes: Bruins RW Mikko Lehtonen made his NHL debut. Boston’s 2005 second-round pick, Lehtonen had a team-leading 28 goals for Providence (AHL) this season. … The Sabres finished with 250 goals for and 234 against, joining Minnesota as the only teams to miss the playoffs this season with more goals scored than allowed. … Vanek scored 41 goals in the 2006-07 season.