Click photo to enlarge
Bruins starters, including defenseman Dennis Seidenberg (44), stand next to a ribbon projected onto the TD Garden ice during Wednesday’s pregame ceremony in honor of the victims of Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings.
Thursday April 18, 2013

BOSTON -- Drew Stafford scored the only shootout goal after Buffalo tied the game in the final minute of regulation, and the Sabres beat the Bruins 3-2 on Wednesday night in the first pro game in Boston since the marathon bombings on Monday.

The Sabres forced overtime with 26.6 seconds left when Cody Hodgson scored his 14th goal of the season, tipping in Thomas Vanek’s pass into the slot during a power play.

Boston still clinched a playoff berth by gaining one point. The Bruins are tied in points with Montreal atop the Northeast Division, but have one game in hand on the Canadiens. Both teams trail Eastern Conference-leading Pittsburgh by nine points.

There was heightened security at TD Garden where cars entering the garage were searched, and fans were checked with wands and patted down.

There was a pregame period of silence and a slideshow of scenes from the Boston Marathon in which three people died and more than 170 were wounded when two bombs went off near the finish line on Monday.

The Bruins quickly gave their fans something to cheer about when Daniel Paille scored his ninth goal of the season just 5:15 in. Vanek tied it with his Buffalo-leading 17th goal on a power play at 18:20 of the first. Chris Kelly then scored the go-ahead goal, his third tally of the season, at 14:48 of the second.

Boston moved into second place in the Eastern Conference with 57 points and six games left. The Canadiens, who lost to Pittsburgh earlier Wednesday, have five games remaining.

The 10th-place Sabres, who beat Philadelphia and Tampa Bay last weekend, are fighting to get into playoff position. They are two places and two points below the postseason cutoff, but have only four games to go.

The Bruins had been scheduled to play at home against the Ottawa Senators on Monday night. But less than five hours before the game was to start, the bombs exploded.

That game was postponed and rescheduled for April 28. The Celtics’ scheduled home game on Tuesday night against the Indiana Pacers was cancelled and won’t be rescheduled. The Red Sox play next at home on Friday night against the Kansas City Royals.

In the shootout, Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand missed for Boston. Buffalo’s first two shooters, Vanek and Nathan Gerbe, also were stopped before Stafford beat Anton Khudobin.

Before the game, Bruins coach Claude Julien said, "The best thing we can do is to make things better for the people of Boston. Sports is a great way to pull people together. Just going out there, making the city proud of their team, and that’s what we’re going to do."

Paille beat Sabres goalie Ryan Miller after Kelly passed the puck from the left corner. Paille lifted it from about 5 feet into a narrow space between the near post and Miller’s right shoulder.

The crowd cheered: "Let’s go Boston. We are Boston."

Vanek tied the game when he tipped Christian Ehrhoff’s shot from just in front of the blue line past Khudobin.

Then Kelly and Paille teamed up again. Paille had the puck in the left corner and passed it across the slot. Kelly shot it over the left pad of Miller, who had sprawled to try to stop Paille’s pass.

Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs pledged $100,000 to The One Fund Boston, the charity established to help families affected by the bombing; the Garden, the NHL and the players association pledged $50,000 each. Ads on the dasher boards and the video screens gave the website address for the fund.

Bruins players and staff collected 80 tickets to the game to donate to the first responders. Forward Brad Marchand raffled off his own suite for the team’s first playoff game, with the proceeds to go to the family of 8-year-old Martin Richards, who was killed in the blast.

During the game’s first break, public address announcer Jim Martin asked any runners from Monday’s race to stand up; many were wearing their finishers’ medals. He then asked for applause for anybody who has ever run; by the time he recognized anyone who has ever volunteered or watched the race, virtually the entire crowd was standing.