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BRUINS 4, PENGUINS 1

Bruins rescued by matinee idols

Murray (hat trick) and Raycroft (38 saves) steal the show

After Andrew Raycroft single-handedly stole a victory for the Bruins Saturday afternoon in Montreal, right wing Glen Murray joked that he'd have to think about whether to take the 23-year-old netminder out to dinner as a thank you.

Yesterday, Raycroft said he considers them all square now.

That's because Murray scored a hat trick against the Pittsburgh Penguins yesterday during Boston's 4-1 victory at the FleetCenter. The Bruins have won three in a row and are unbeaten in four (3-0-1-0) while the Penguins dropped their 10th straight.

Raycroft came up big in this one, too, with 38 saves. He kept his club in the hunt until the Bruins' offense kicked in during the second and third periods. It was the fifth career hat trick and first since Nov. 26, 2002, for the 31-year-old Murray, who extended his point streak to six games with eight goals and one assist. Joe Thornton added three assists.

Once again, as has happened far too often this season, the Bruins were dreadful in the first period. Pittsburgh outshot Boston, 16-9, and took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission on right wing Aleksey Morozov's first goal in 34 games, scored on the power play. Bruins coach Mike Sullivan, whose squad gave up four power-play opportunities in the period, including a five-on-three for 1:05, didn't like how his team came out of the gate and told it so.

"We obviously didn't come out and have the period we wanted to have," said Sullivan. "That was discouraging from our standpoint. We let our players know in no uncertain terms, but you have to give them credit because they really responded [after that]. Pittsburgh is a hard-working group and they make it tough on you."

All four of the Bruins' goals came in the third period. Murray tied it on the power play at 6:01. Defenseman Dan McGillis took a shot from the left point that hit off the back boards and bounced out to Murray, who was near the left post. Murray collected it and fired it past goalie Sebastien Caron to make it 1-1.

Rookie defenseman Shaone Morrisonn set up the go-ahead goal when he won a battle behind the Pittsburgh net with Penguins blue liner Dick Tarnstrom and fed Murray, who scored from the top of the crease at 14:14 to make it 2-1. Murray completed the hat trick on his 21st goal, scored into an empty net with 59.9 seconds remaining. Brian Rolston closed it out on a second empty-netter with 23.2 seconds left.

"We just started outworking them," said Raycroft, who gave up one goal on 73 shots in the two weekend games. "In the first, we kind of got outworked, and it was brought to our attention and we just really took it to them."

Over the final 40 minutes, the Bruins outshot the Penguins, 38-23.

"They seemed to have the jump early on," said Murray. "Then, when we tied it up, we seemed to get our legs a little bit and we started to force them."

Now that Murray has found his scoring touch, the Bruins might not have to rely as heavily on their netminding as they have during their numerous offensive slumps. But they say they take comfort in the fact they know they can. Felix Potvin has played well during his starts, but Raycroft has been the club's most valuable player.

"You can't say enough about him," said Murray.

Sullivan admitted that the Bruins are still working out the kinks, still trying to find lines that click, which is why he put Mike Knuble back up with Thornton and Murray yesterday. Being able to tinker with combinations this late in the season has, in no small part, been made possible by the fact the most consistent position on the club is in the net.

"I think it's invaluable," said Sullivan. "I think it's difficult to have success in this league if you don't have goaltending. It's arguably the most important position in sports. It's the last line of defense and when things break down and you have a goaltending tandem like we feel we do, that makes the timely save for us, I think it's critical to have any sort of success in this league.

"They're obviously the backbone of our hockey team right now."

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