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Bruins' chances coming, going

Punchless offense may lead to a KO

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / April 17, 2008

WILMINGTON - As expected, sleep didn't come easily for David Krejci after the Bruins' 1-0 loss to Montreal Tuesday in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series.

Of the fistful of Grade A scoring chances the Bruins created, Krejci had some of the best.

In the second period, after Andrew Ference was called for tripping winger Alex Kovalev - defenseman Patrice Brisebois scored the game's only goal during the power play at 19:18 - Krejci slipped behind the Montreal defense with a chance to put the puck behind goalie Carey Price. Krejci broke in from the left wing, but his close-in forehand bid was snuffed out by Price.

With the Bruins shorthanded in the first period, Krejci had an even better scoring opportunity.

Marco Sturm, who misfired earlier when Price challenged him for a loose puck and the winger wristed a shot wide of the net, busted into the Montreal zone with Krejci riding shotgun.

According to Krejci, Sturm laid a soft, flat pass, easy enough to handle. Price was in his butterfly and Krejci aimed for a spot just over his left pad.

"I watched the replay," Krejci said after a 30-minute practice yesterday at Ristuccia Arena. "I don't want to make excuses. The pass was perfect. It was flat. Just before I hit it, the puck got up.

"I just wanted to get it at least that high," continued Krejci, holding his hand about 18 inches above the dressing room floor. "Because he had his pad here like this," he said, lowering his hand. "So I wanted to go a little higher. I don't want to make any excuses. I have to score."

They are words that nearly every Bruin must be saying entering tonight's do-or-die Game 5 at Bell Centre. The Bruins find themselves in a 3-1 hole because of a yearlong ailment: lack of offense.

Through the first four games, the Bruins have put 115 pucks on Price for an average of 28.8 shots per game, just about a wash with the 28.5 shots they averaged during the regular season. But in comparison with the regular season, when the Bruins averaged only 2.58 goals per game (24th in the NHL), they are finding it even more challenging to find the back of the net in the playoffs.

After four games, the Bruins have scored only five times for an average of 1.25 goals per outing. They were denied on 27 attempts Tuesday as Price recorded his first postseason shutout.

Glen Murray doesn't have a point. Sturm has one assist and zero goals on a team-high 11 shots. Krejci, the man with the hot stick during the regular-season stretch run (9 points during a five-game streak), has scored only the Game 2 power-play goal. Glen Metropolit, who had several close-in opportunities in Game 4, hasn't scored in more than two months. Zdeno Chara, his game limited because of a shoulder injury, hasn't registered a point after racking up career highs in goals (17), assists (34), and points during the regular season. Shawn Thornton, who netted four regular-season goals, has eight shots during the playoffs, one more than Murray and Marc Savard.

"We had our chances to score that first goal," coach Claude Julien said of his Game 4 attack. "Those are the things you have to make sure you capitalize on if you want to win hockey games."

Perhaps the biggest problem has been Murray, who entered the series with 20 goals in 87 career postseason games. But the No. 1 right wing is on a nine-game goal drought, with his last coming March 27 against Toronto.

"Obviously, I want to put the puck in the net to help the team out," Murray said. "You lose, 1-0, and you don't score, I want to help the team score and I'm not doing it. You have to keep working hard, try and get your chances, and put them in."

In Game 4, Murray put himself in position to score twice. After the opening faceoff, Murray drove to the net and took a feed from Savard, but shoveled his shot wide right. In the second period, Murray's shot from the slot thudded off Price's chest.

"He's played well," Julien said of Price. "I guess sometimes it's about where you shoot the puck that nullifies rebounds. If you keep shooting in his belly, not too many goalies give rebounds from there."

One option Julien has to shake up his sleepy offense is to dress Phil Kessel tonight. Kessel assisted on Boston's only goal in Game 1, but was a healthy scratch the last three games. Julien, in explaining his decision to scratch Kessel and make the corresponding lineup moves - slotting Petteri Nokelainen into the No. 3 right wing position and dressing Vladimir Sobotka for fourth-line duties - said he wanted more grit to match the Canadiens.

But with such little offense in the first four games, Julien may have no choice but to go back to Kessel, the fastest skater and owner of the best release on the team.

"It doesn't mean we're not going to see him back in the lineup," Julien said. "As we speak, there's lots of time before [tonight's game]. We have to look at the health of our hockey club and try putting together the best team for the game."

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com.

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