|Anaheim's George Parros decks Phil Kessel in the third period. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)|
Bruins get their Ducks in a row
In one corner, put a first-place club hungry to reclaim the emotion-filled, thump-first, puck-possession game that once had them atop the league. In the other corner, place a struggling team plagued by leaky goaltending, a tendency to take stupid penalties, and the lack of character that had them sipping from the Cup only two seasons ago.
Let 'em loose at each other and what do you get? A 6-0 punt to Anaheim's rear end delivered by the suddenly clicking Bruins, who shook off the surly Ducks' intimidation game and gave them a kick in the teeth that might reduce Anaheim to seller by Wednesday's trade deadline.
"When we were struggling there, you kind of had the feeling that we weren't going to score. We weren't even getting dangerous opportunities," said Tim Thomas, who had 35 saves. "Now tonight, we had the feeling we could score any time we had it in their zone."
The Bruins, stuck in a 1-4-2 rut entering a six-game homestand, have now blown the doors off two clubs. They pounded Florida, 6-1, Tuesday. Last night before a sellout crowd of 17,565 at TD Banknorth Garden, they followed with another six-spot against a club looking for a jolt by acquiring former Boston University defenseman Ryan Whitney from Pittsburgh for forward Chris Kunitz and prospect Eric Tangradi.
Instead, the Ducks imploded.
Having watched Jean-Sebastien Giguere stop only five of eight shots, Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle yanked his starter at 3:43 of the second period after Chuck Kobasew gave the Bruins a 3-0 lead. Backup Jonas Hiller was just as shaky, as the Bruins poured two more second-period goals into the net and capped off the six-pack with a Byron Bitz strike at 13:41 of the third.
There were all kinds of goals. There was Matt Hunwick's winner at 17:54 of the first when he joined the rush and pushed a bad-angle shot past Giguere. Second-period wristers by Michael Ryder and Kobasew that Giguere should have stopped. The Ryder bank job, a play started by a long-distance pass from Thomas, who can hardly include himself in the stickhandling category of Martin Brodeur. And perhaps the softest goal of all: a Kobasew wrister past Hiller with 15.6 ticks remaining in the second period, ending any shot of an Anaheim rally.
"I think guys are playing more loose," said Blake Wheeler, who had two assists. "It might sound like a really easy thing to just flip the switch. But sometimes it's the hardest thing in the world out there to just relax, play your game, let loose, and go about your business. Everyone wanted to do the right thing. When we were struggling for a little bit, everyone wanted to get things going the right way and take it upon themselves. As a group, I think we've found our rhythm again with that calmness. We're going out there and reacting and just playing hard. We're confident that the results are going to be there."
Perhaps the only negative to the thumping was the loss of Milan Lucic and Marc Savard to upper-body injuries suffered in the second period. Savard was shaken up when Anaheim heavyweight George Parros sent him tumbling into the boards. Savard got up slowly and left the ice. Shawn Thornton immediately went after his ex-teammate to demand payback.
"He finished his hit on Savvy," said Thornton, who tried to get inside Parros to elude his longer reach. "I didn't really see if it was dirty or clean. I know he's a pretty honest player. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. But I know that Savvy's laying there, so that's my job to address that."
Savard returned in the second period - and wrestled with Anaheim defenseman Scott Niedermayer as the two earned matching roughing minors - but didn't play in the third. Also not seeing third-period time was Lucic, last seen delivering a beating to Anaheim forward Mike Brown. The fireworks erupted at 14:49 of the second when Lucic tangled with Brown and defenseman Sheldon Brookbank in front of the Anaheim net. Before Lucic could get his gloves off, Brown (instigating, fighting, 10-minute misconduct) connected with a straight right, then lost his balance. An incensed Lucic continued to rain down rights on Brown's head while he was on the ice, usually frowned upon when fighters square off.
Coach Claude Julien said Savard and Lucic will be evaluated today. Lucic missed seven games with an injured right shoulder earlier this season. Last night was the first time Lucic fought since suffering the shoulder injury Jan. 6.
"I don't think we're there yet where we want to be," Julien said. "But certainly we're moving in the right direction. We've scored 12 goals in the last couple of games. Overall, I think our game is starting to come back. We need to be hard on ourselves to have our game where we want to be and not get satisfied."