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Just slick enough

Bruins slip past Oilers on strength of power play

Early this season, coach Mike Sullivan was befuddled by his team's lethargic performances on home ice. Not only did the Bruins come out of the gate slowly, they too often fell behind and had to struggle to get back into the game. It was all the more difficult when the opponent was one that played a smothering style, such as New Jersey, Carolina, and Montreal -- the first three teams they faced.

But last night was a wide-open, free-skating affair, with the Bruins edging the Edmonton Oilers, 4-3, at the FleetCenter. The clubs combined for 73 shots, with Boston generating 39 of them.

"The first few games we played, we had trouble generating energy, sufficient energy to be effective," said Sullivan. "One of the strengths of our team is our skating ability, and we need to generate energy in order to play that skating game we want to play."

Whatever ailed them early is no longer a problem. During this just-completed three-game homestand, the Bruins went 2-0-1-0, outscoring their foes, 13-9, and outshooting them, 124-85. The crowd may have appreciated it and the forwards may have enjoyed it, but at least one player was exhausted afterward.

"It was fun for the other 20 guys, not me," said Bruins goalie Andrew Raycroft, who improved to 5-2-1. "It was good. They're a real fast-skating team. They thrive on their transition. I think we did a really good job on them, but at the same time, you know they're going to get their chances, and at the same time, they're going to give up chances. That's how they play."

The Bruins' objective was to get on top of Edmonton early. The Oilers were playing their second game in as many nights and were coming off a 5-4 victory Monday over the Rangers in New York. The home team indeed got on the board first, thanks to rookie center Patrice Bergeron, who potted his fifth of the year during a power play.

Left wing Sergei Samsonov started the attack, dishing a pass from the left boards up to center Brian Rolston at the point. Rolston's one-timer made it through to goalie Ty Conklin but he made the initial stop. Right wing Marty Lapointe got a stick on it and the rebound bounced over to Bergeron, who swept it in from the left side of the net at 11:01.

Early in the second, Edmonton rallied to tie it on center Jarret Stoll's second of the year. With just 51 seconds gone in the period, Stoll tipped in a point shot by defenseman Jason Smith.

The next three goals belonged to Boston, two of which came on the power play.

The Oilers were called for too many men on the ice at 11:27, leading to Lapointe's second goal of the season. Raycroft threw the puck up to defenseman Jeff Jillson, who forwarded it to left wing Mike Knuble. Knuble relayed it to captain Joe Thornton, who skated it into the left circle. Lapointe was charging up the right side and Thornton hit him with a pass, which Lapointe buried from the inside edge of the right circle at 12:25.

Shortly thereafter, Ryan Smyth was called for tripping, giving the Bruins another power play. This time it was Thornton who cashed in.

The Oilers were desperately trying to clear the puck but right wing Glen Murray managed to keep it in and get it to Thornton. Thornton wheeled around in the attacking zone, but when no one was able to get open for a pass, Thornton teed up a slapper from the left circle. It appeared to glance off defenseman Eric Brewer and went in at 14:34, 10 seconds before the power play was set to expire.

Boston made it a three-goal lead at 16:36 when right wing Sandy McCarthy tallied his second goal of the year. Center Michal Grosek, who has meshed well on the fourth line with McCarthy and left wing Rob Zamuner, had the puck and gave it McCarthy. McCarthy went behind the net looking to center a pass. He didn't see an opening, so he skated it out by the right post, spun around, and wristed a forehander that beat Conklin at 16:36.

The Bruins looked to be in command but they wound up letting the Oilers right back into the game in the third period.

At 2:58, Edmonton closed the gap to a pair of goals when left wing Raffi Torres scored his seventh of the year.

A shorthanded tally at 11:28 made it hairier. Jillson lost the puck at the blue line and left wing Mike York took off up the right side on a two-on-one break. He took a slap shot from the right circle that Raycroft stopped but the rebound bounced right in front for center Shawn Horcoff, who tapped it in to make it 4-3.

That goal was disheartening for Raycroft, but ultimately it didn't matter.

"You're thinking, `Maybe we'll get one here, and at worst, there will be five minutes left instead of seven,' but they get a lucky bounce off the boards or off the ice and they come down and score," said Raycroft. "You tighten up a little bit and that's just human nature but we contained them well the last few minutes. But we got the win and that's all that matters. It was a difficult game to play. They came hard all night."

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northeast standings
Boston 8 2 3 2 21
Toronto 7 4 3 1 18
Buffalo 7 7 1 0 15
Montreal 7 8 1 0 15
Ottawa 6 4 2 1 15
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