Bruins’ loss gives San Jose NHL’s best mark

BUFFALO, New York (AP) — 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
absorbed a 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.

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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 postseason 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 defenseman 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 a 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.