BOSTON -- The Bruins defensemen know what it's like to try to battle winger Mark Recchi in the corners. They do it almost every day in practice.
"I just let him go," joked Dennis Wideman after the Bruins hung on for a 2-1 win in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Buffalo on Monday night at TD Garden.
Sabres forward Tim Kennedy might consider taking Wideman's advice as this series unfolds. Instead, Kennedy went mano a mano with Recchi in pursuit of a Patrice Bergeron dump-in late in the third period. Kennedy wound up on his rear end and the puck ended up moving from Recchi's stick to Bergeron's and past Ryan Miller into Buffalo's net with the speed of a shooting star for the game-winning score.
"I am just thinking about beating that guy," Recchi said about the play. "I knew it was going to be a battle. We were kind of even going in and I was just trying to get position and I was fortunate that I caught him proper and was able to win the battle. As soon as I turned, I knew Bergy was in the slot, so he is great at finding that little area. I knew he was going to be there and it was a heck of a shot."
Bergeron, the Bruins' young alternate captain, and Recchi, the now-42-year-old future Hall of Famer, have been linemates basically from the time Recchi arrived in a trade with Tampa Bay in March 2009. So Bergeron had no doubt how the play was going to unfold as he busted into the Buffalo zone.
"I knew he was going to win that battle too, so I slowed down a little bit. I was ready to go help him too, but he didn't need me so I stayed in the slot," said Bergeron, whose first goal of the series gave the Bruins a 2-1 edge heading into Wednesday's Game 4. "He went into that corner with one thing in mind -- it was to win that battle. That's what I learn from him every day. He's such a warrior on the ice; he's a veteran. He gives us a chance to win every time he steps on the ice."
That warrior mentality seemed to rub off on every Bruins player in Game 3, as the team recorded 38 hits and protected a one-goal lead despite playing the last five minutes with Andrew Ference in the locker room after a misconduct and Vladimir Sobotka in the box for fighting.
Throughout the evening, coach Claude Julien used the last line change to his advantage by making sure Bergeron's line, completed by Recchi and Milan Lucic, along with the defense pair of Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk, matched up against Derek Roy, Jason Pominville and Kennedy. Boston's best defensive quintet kept the Roy line off the score sheet and mostly away from the Boston net.
"That's our job too," Recchi said. "Since I've been here with Bergy, we've played against top lines. Last year was Chucky [Kobasew] and this year it's been Marco [Sturm] and now it's Looch. And we take pride in it. They're good hockey players, and you've got to be smart and you've got to contain, and you know they're going to get some chances during the game. But it's how much you limit them too and it's it's hard, but it's an enjoyable job and very rewarding, and hopefully we can keep it up."
Keeping it up could mean a series victory and a spot in the second round. That will give Recchi's opponents and teammates more time to be amazed by the ageless wonder.
"You can't really tell the way he plays he's 42," Boychuk said. "He plays like he's 25. Unbelievable, that guy."