Hurricanes batter Bruins a fourth time
At their current pace, the Hurricanes will finish 2011-12 with 72 points, say their goodbyes after Game No. 82, and sprint for the nearest golf course. Just imagine how their fortunes would turn if they could play the Bruins for 82 games instead of four.
Last night, before 17,565 at TD Garden, Carolina completed a four-game season sweep of the Bruins with its most dominant effort yet. The Hurricanes beat Tuukka Rask three times, Cam Ward stopped 47 shots for an easy shutout, and Carolina hung a 3-0 loss on the stumbling Bruins.
“There’s certain teams during certain years that will give you a hard time,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “They have. They’ve played us well. They’ve made it hard on us.
“At the same time, they’ve come in here with a lot of confidence. They beat us the last three games. Pretty soundly. That’s what the situation is.’’
The Bruins are 4-4-1 in their last nine games, their record an accurate reflection of how they’re treading water in the dog days of January and February.
The home club was especially drowsy in the second period, when it appeared that a dressing room visitor replaced the good stuff with a tankard full of watered-down commodity decaf.
“To absolutely fall asleep in the second period - not good enough at all,’’ said Shawn Thornton. “I don’t think we had everyone going, again. It seems to be the same old story.
“We’re not that good that we can just come out, go through the motions, and expect to be successful. When we’re at the top of our game, it’s because everyone’s working. But it’s not happening right now.’’
The second period displayed the Bruins at their worst. Lazy. Not engaged. Making bad decisions. Spinning their wheels and not getting any traction.
And they paid for it.
The Bruins, down, 1-0, after 20 minutes (Eric Staal scored at 11:51 of the first), couldn’t string together two good shifts.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes were the aggressors. They came hard with a strong forecheck. They won races against the backchecking Bruins. And a never-quit effort by Brandon Sutter - Carolina’s version of Patrice Bergeron - led to a crippling Tuomo Ruutu strike.
The play in question started deep in the Boston zone after a Carolina dump-in. Andrew Ference, going back for the puck, tried to backhand a D-to-D pass to Adam McQuaid. Sutter sprinted after the puck, stepped between two defensemen, and picked off the pass.
Rask got a left pad on Sutter’s short-range shot. But Ruutu found the rebound, pulled the puck to his backhand, and beat a down-and-out Rask at 16:41 of the second to give the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead.
While it was the only goal the Bruins allowed in the second, they never got close to scoring themselves. They peppered Ward with 22 pucks in the first period. But Ward had to turn back only five in the second.
The Bruins didn’t manage the puck well. Their forwards didn’t come back hard enough, which left them without the team speed they require to execute their breakouts correctly. Shift after shift, the Bruins couldn’t find any purchase on a slippery track.
“The focus and the execution we want is not there,’’ Julien said. “You end up behind the 8-ball once again heading into the third. We’ve done that way too much lately. Way too much.
“We certainly have to understand that we are not that great of a team when we’re just going out there and going through the motions.
“Right now, we’re playing more like a team that should be at the bottom of the standings than at the top of the standings. That’s the reality of it.’’
The Hurricanes completed their three-goal assault at 3:13 of the third. Rask left his crease to track down a rim behind his net. But he cleared the puck around the boards to Andreas Nodl, who spotted Sutter open in the slot. Before Rask could recover, Sutter wired a shot under the crossbar to give Carolina a 3-0 lead.
The Bruins still had their chances. At 7:54, Justin Faulk was sent off for kneeing, giving the Bruins their first power play of the night. They had several good sniffs while Faulk was in the box, but at 9:39, with 15 seconds remaining on the power play, Milan Lucic was called for roughing during a post-whistle scrum to wipe out the rest of the man-advantage.
At 14:07, Jussi Jokinen was nabbed for slashing Chris Kelly. On the first offensive-zone faceoff, Brad Marchand slashed Bryan Allen behind the net just eight seconds into the power play. Marchand’s temper had been rising all game. The left wing picked the wrong time to explode.
The Bruins never got close again.
“We’re working. We’re not working smart. There’s a fine line there,’’ Bergeron said. “We’re not doing that right now. It’s obvious.
“We know where to be on the ice. We know how to execute. We know the system. We’re just not doing it. We’re not in synch. It shows.’’