Bruins hit rut in Game 2, give up home ice
Zdeno Chara, virtually stapled to Carolina center Eric Staal like the shadow stitched to Peter Pan, has been a virtual black hole for opponents during the playoffs. Enter Chara's space? Offenses venture there only to wither and die.
But last night, the Hurricanes proved that the 6-foot-9-inch strongman isn't a goal-eliminating cyborg after all.
In the second period, Chara was on the ice when Staal, pointless against the Bruins in five previous matches this season, fed Joe Corvo at the point for the game's first goal. Later in the second, Chara's point-to-point pass for Dennis Wideman was picked off by penalty killer Chad LaRose, a turnover that led to center Matt Cullen's kick-in-the-gut shorthander.
"Miscommunication obviously," said coach Claude Julien. "Our two Ds came back and both committed to the guy behind the net. Obviously there was a breakdown there. Just one of the breakdowns among many we had tonight."
Then with 27.1 seconds remaining in regulation, Chara was on the ice when Staal sealed the 3-0 Carolina victory with an empty-net goal.
The Bruins had been undefeated in the postseason. But the Hurricanes swaggered out of a sold-out TD Banknorth Garden last night (there were boobirds among the bunch late in the third period) proving that Chara (minus-3 in 24:37 of ice time) and the Bruins are human after all. Game 3 is Wednesday night at the RBC Center, with the series now guaranteed to return to Boston for Game 5 Sunday.
"We're not in the second round against a team that doesn't deserve to be here," said Julien. "This is a team as good as we are. They earned their way here. We can't just look at the last series and say, 'We were 4-0 against Montreal. It's going to be 4-0 against Carolina.' We knew this was going to be a tough series. Right now, we're facing a little bit of adversity. We're going into their building with the series tied at one."
The Bruins can point to a rotten second period as their demise. The energized Hurricanes, sloppy in just about every phase of the game in the opening match (turnovers in open ice, poor puck management, failure to control Boston's counterattacks), gained their first lead in the series at 2:30 of the second period. With traffic in front of the net, Corvo blistered a slap shot from the point that Tim Thomas didn't see until the puck was buzzing past his head.
The Bruins could have tied the match when defenseman Joni Pitkanen was sent off for elbowing at 6:24. Instead, LaRose intercepted Chara's pass and broke off for a scoring chance. Thomas turned aside LaRose's close-range bid. But with Chara and Wideman marking LaRose and no back pressure in sight, the puck went out to an open Cullen.
"I never saw Cullen," said Thomas (22 saves). "I was so puck-focused on LaRose. Then I saw him pass it out, but I didn't know where the shot was going to be coming from. Then Z stepped in front. So I never got to get my angle on him, because I never saw Cullen."
A fortuitous video replay wiped out a possible third goal at the end of the second period. The Bruins, down by only two goals in the third, came out with their best period.
"The third period, when we decided to play a little harder, the damage was done," said Julien.
The Hurricanes could point to their goalie as the game-changing player in the third. The Hurricanes were outshot by a 16-3 margin in the final frame, but Cam Ward stopped all the pucks that came his way.
Ward saved his best stuff for late in the third after defenseman Tim Gleason sent the puck into the stands, earning a delay-of-game infraction and giving the Bruins their third power play. After a flurry in front, Michael Ryder had the puck on his blade in the slot. With Ward seemingly down and out, Ryder thought he had plenty of net to score his club's first goal. But Ward recovered, got square to Ryder, and flashed his left pad to kick out the sniper's shot.
On the same wave of attack, the puck found its way to Wideman at the point. Ward was still in his butterfly after punting out Ryder's bid. Had Wideman elevated his shot, it might have beaten Ward upstairs. But Wideman's shot stayed low, and Ward (36 saves) got his left pad in front of the puck again.
So good, so good.
"The way their goaltender played tonight, it was hard for us to get back in the game," said Julien. "On those quality chances we had, he made some big saves. He deserves a lot of credit for that."