RALEIGH, N.C. - By the end of last night's shootout, strikes by Phil Kessel and David Krejci coupled with two saves by Tim Thomas gave the Bruins a 3-2 win and the 2 points they were hunting for.
In a perfect world, the Bruins would have claimed the decision earlier.
"We wanted to get it done in regular time," said Zdeno Chara. "But they pulled the goalie, they scored the goals, and they went all offense. It happens."
For just under 59 minutes, before 17,552 at the RBC Center, the Bruins played a solid road match. While Chara recorded a power-play goal in the first period and Marc Savard netted a man-advantage score in the second, the Bruins limited the Hurricanes to perimeter shots, allowing Thomas to get good looks at pucks.
But within a 20-second span late in regulation, Carolina kicked the Bruins in the teeth to tie the game and extend Boston's night.
At 18:57, with goalie Cam Ward pulled for an extra attacker, forward Ray Whitney took a backhand feed from linemate Andrew Ladd and slammed the puck into an open side of the net, making it a 2-1 game.
Then at 19:17, after Boston failed to clear the zone, forward Erik Cole jumped into the play and beat Thomas (45 saves), seemingly snatching a win away from the Bruins when they could taste the 2 points.
But after a scoreless overtime, a pair of youngsters grabbed the 2 points right back while Thomas blanked two Carolina shooters.
After Marco Sturm opened the shootout with a miss, Matt Cullen kicked off his attempt with an unusual move. Cullen charged the puck at first, hoping to push Thomas deep into his cage to open up more net, then slowed down as he waited out the netminder.
Thomas, however, didn't blink, forcing Cullen to make the first move, and the forward rang a shot off the post.
Kessel, Boston's second shooter, attacked the puck and tapped a forehand shot between Ward's wickets. Thomas came back to stone ex-Bruin Sergei Samsonov, then Krejci, who hasn't scored an official goal all season, calmly fired a wrister past Ward to ice the result.
Coach Claude Julien had been waiting to deploy Krejci in a shootout. In practice, the coaching staff noted that Krejci was burying his shootout attempts. On Feb. 8, when the Bruins went to the shootout against Buffalo, Julien had tapped Krejci as his No. 3 shooter. But Krejci wasn't needed after Kessel, the No. 2 man, beat goalie Ryan Miller.
"It's a confidence boost for him," Julien said. "Hopefully, now he'll find the bottom of the net in regulation time."
Julien was encouraged by how his team performed in the neutral zone prior to the last minute of play. The Bruins powered past Carolina's 1-3-1 defensive formation to get pucks deep in the offensive zone. The go-go attack didn't lead to any even-strength goals, but the Bruins recorded 38 shots - nearly 11 more than they were averaging (27.4).
The Bruins turned to their power play for offense, and Savard's shift in positioning was the key.
For most of the season, Savard had been stationed along the right boards. Last night, he positioned himself higher, acting like another point man to draw penalty-killers and open up plays down low.
In the first period, from his spot at the top of the circle, Savard fed the puck to Sturm down low. Because the Hurricanes were focused on taking away Savard's options, Sturm had time and space as he settled the puck and spotted Chara open at the far post. Sturm sent a crisp feed out front for Chara to redirect past Ward at 4:50, giving Boston a 1-0 lead.
In the second period, Savard was sent off at 11:46 for holding forward Eric Staal, a penalty the Bruins killed off (Chara was on the ice for the entire two minutes). Then forward Scott Walker, an agitator the entire game, slashed Savard at 14:06.
Savard, remaining high on the power play instead of against the wall, took a pass from Dennis Wideman, recognized the Hurricanes were playing him to pass, and fired a slapper that sailed over Ward's glove at 14:28.
"We're encouraging him to do that and open up some options," said Julien. "One is shooting and one is pulling that D toward you a little bit. Two power-play goals - something we've been looking for for a little while."