BUFFALO — The gloves flew off just 2:26 into the game, and for about 10 seconds Cody McCormick and Shawn Thornton fought ferociously, a harbinger for the rest of the fierce Northeast Division tilt between the Sabres and Boston Bruins.
Several stories above the First Niagara Center ice, as the heavyweights duked it out, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff must’ve been nodding in approval.
The three broken ribs Ruff suffered Monday during a scary practice collision with Jordan Leopold forced him to watch from the press box and hand over bench duties to assistant James Patrick.
But Ruff, who’s still in considerable pain, dearly wanted to show up Wednesday following two days home recovering. His players rewarded the gutsy effort with one their own.
In arguably their most complete game this season, the Sabres torched the defending Stanley Cup champions 6-0 before a capacity crowd of 18,690 loud fans.
“I felt better and better as the game went on,” said Ruff, who will continue to serve as an “eye in the sky” while he recovers. “At the end I felt really good.”
He added: “I’m going to be down and out a little while, but that makes you feel better. … (I’ll) take a hit to win a game any day.”
Forget about the goal bonanza or goalie Ryan Miller’s second shutout in three games, though.
The Sabres’ physicality sent a loud statement against the rough-and-tumble Bruins.
Nearly three months ago, when agitator Milan Lucic got away with running Miller in Boston, the Sabres looked pathetic.
On Wednesday, the Sabres played the aggressor role, initiating contact and refusing to back down to the Bruins.
“We’re ready to play,” Sabres winger Patrick Kaleta said. “We’re not going to get pushed over.”
It started with McCormick’s bout.
“He took on a tough guy there,” Kaleta said. “When you see a guy stand up like that, it gives you a little more ammo in the system, more adrenaline going.”