Host Bruins easily repel Hurricanes
Get the first goal after a long layoff? Check.
Shut down the opponent's most dangerous line? Done.
Keep the foot on the gas when you see your foe falter? All good.
That's how the Bruins recorded a 4-1 win over Carolina last night before 17,565 at TD Banknorth Garden to earn a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinal series, doing so with the ruthless efficiency of a
Frightening part for the weak-blowing Hurricanes? The Bruins know they can be better.
"It wasn't a bad game," said coach Claude Julien. "I'm going to tell you right now that there are some things in our game we need to improve. A lot of that is probably due to the long layoff. We were good tonight. We can be better. I think everybody in that dressing room knows that."
Marc Savard led the attack with two goals, including in the second period to break a 1-1 tie. Savard's winning goal came shortly after Julien juggled his lines. P.J. Axelsson, who started the game with Savard and Phil Kessel, was shifted to the fourth line. Blake Wheeler moved up the third line. Milan Lucic was reunited with Savard and Kessel. Every move worked, with Lucic setting enough of a screen on Cam Ward (20 saves), giving Savard daylight to bat a backhander off a rebound into the goal at 7:21.
"We looked a little bit flat offensively," Julien said. "We weren't generating much. We just put some players back together that had played together before. It seemed to give that little spark that we needed. We found a way to score some goals. We knew at some point that was going to happen. We had done it all year with moving things around a little bit."
The backbreaker came a little more than five minutes later. During a breakout, Carolina wing Tuomo Ruutu made an ill-advised pass into center ice that Michael Ryder intercepted with little effort. Wheeler jumped up to create a two on one with Ryder against defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. Ryder hurtled into the offensive zone and snapped an off-wing wrister over Ward's glove at 12:41.
Savard added a garbage-time goal at 7:21 of the third. The Hurricanes offered little resistance.
"We didn't play anywhere near the game we knew we were capable of playing," said Carolina coach Paul Maurice.
The only time the Hurricanes offered anything resembling a fight came in the first period. Despite falling behind, 1-0, (David Krejci tipped home an Aaron Ward shot at 1:34), Carolina used its speed to scurry around the Bruins and attack the net. At 8:42, fourth-line center Jussi Jokinen fed the puck to a hard-charging Ruutu in the slot. Tim Thomas pushed from right to left to stop Ruutu's bid. But then Thomas had to scramble out of the way of Ruutu, who barreled into the crease and hit the crossbar, just missing the Boston netminder.
"Tuomo Ruutu did about as good a job as he could do of not hitting me," said a gracious Thomas (26 saves). "After watching the replay, he got hit by our defenseman."
Thomas escaped Ruutu. He couldn't replicate his luck against fourth-line forward Ryan Bayda later in the period. At 18:50, Jokinen beat Thomas with a slap shot to tie the game. An instant later, Bayda steamrolled Thomas, earning a visit to the penalty box for goalie interference.
"I was too busy watching the puck and thinking about the puck going in," said Thomas. "I didn't even see that coming at all. But I watched the way they played against New Jersey. That's what they do. So I was mentally prepared beforehand."
While the fourth line found a way to beat Thomas, Carolina's horses couldn't get anything going against Ward and Zdeno Chara. No. 1 left wing Ray Whitney landed one shot. Top-line center Eric Staal, shadowed by Chara the entire night, put only two pucks on goal.
In the second period, Maurice replaced No. 1 right wing Chad LaRose with Erik Cole, the erstwhile Oiler and two-time Hurricane. About the only thing Cole managed to do was pull Chara off the ice with him at 14:54 of the second, when both big men were nabbed for post-whistle roughing minors.
The closest the No. 1 line came to scoring was in the third period when Staal had an edge-of-the-crease jam attempt. But Thomas exploded to his left and snuffed out the bid with a pad.
"When we're in our building, we have that change to make sure we have Z out against him all the time," Andrew Ference said of the Staal-Chara matchup. "He's a Norris candidate. I think it's just that simple."
The outcome was a far greater rout than a three-goal win would indicate. But in the first round, the Hurricanes also lost Game 1 to New Jersey by a 4-1 score. They rebounded to win Game 2 and take the series in seven.
"We worked hard in all three zones," Lucic said. "But we can't be satisfied with this effort. We've got to get better."
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.