Bruins force series back to Raleigh
Eric Staal tried. He really did.
In the second period, when the Carolina center saw Zdeno Chara sprint away to join the rush, Staal tried to follow suit and backcheck the Bruins' captain. But Staal, already gassed from two visits to the ice (courtesy of Chara checks earlier in the shift), could barely make it across the Carolina blue line by the time the behemoth charged to the Hurricanes' crease.
Meanwhile, Chara, who helped set up Phil Kessel's second goal by driving to the net and providing a passing lane for Marc Savard, wasn't about to roll over and quit, just because the Bruins entered last night's game at TD Banknorth Garden in a 3-1 series hole.
Twenty Bruins clubs have faced such a deficit, and all 20 have failed to overcome it. The 21st version may come up short too, but last night, before 17,565 fans at the Garden, Chara and the Bruins proved one thing.
They're not fading away.
"Our backs were against the wall," said coach Claude Julien. "Our backs are still against the wall. At one point, you've got to decide what you want to do. Tonight, Game 5 was to create Game 6. We're going into Game 6 to hopefully create Game 7. If you don't leave it all out on the ice and you aren't willing to do the things that you need to do to win, then you're going home. So our guys made that decision tonight to go out there and play the way they needed to play to succeed. We got the results."
The end product: a 4-0 teeth-kicking that was more one-sided than the score indicated. The Bruins, manhandled, 4-1, in Game 4 on enemy ice, were perhaps even more dominant than the Hurricanes were on Friday.
The Bruins skated well. They chipped pucks out of their zone and didn't allow a puck to come Tim Thomas's way until 11:04 of the first period. They gained the Carolina blue line with purpose and ease, then cycled relentlessly against the overmatched Hurricanes to pour puck after puck on Cam Ward (36 saves), who was under siege for most of the night. Their puck-possession game clicked.
"We had the puck," said Thomas (19 saves). "We had the puck in their zone. We were composed. I don't know that they keep time of possession stats, but if they do, you'll definitely see a major difference between tonight's game and the previous three games."
And when things got rough, the Bruins beat up the Hurricanes, with Mark Stuart and Shawn Thornton dispatching forward Tim Conboy in separate bouts.
In short, it was Bruins hockey.
"We had a little bit more poise tonight," said Dennis Wideman. "We held the puck a little bit better. We made better passes to each other. Ice was a little better. The puck wasn't bouncing around as much, and I think that gave us the opportunity to execute better passes. The previous couple games, we were getting under a little pressure, then we'd throw a bomb at our partner. He was trying to handle it, and by the time he looked up, someone was right on him. That's the way it goes when passes start bouncing around. It makes it that much harder for the next guy. I think we did a better job of making good, quality passes tonight."
At 14:48 of the first, after defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was nabbed for slashing, Mark Recchi put the Bruins on the scoreboard when he tipped a Chara floater past Ward.
The Hurricanes could have tied the game when they went on the power play at 15:33 of the first after Steve Montador was called for interference. But Thomas made two sparkling saves to keep his team in the lead. First, with his sightlines cut down, Thomas made a reactionary save on Sergei Samsonov by kicking out the ex-Bruin's shot from the slot. The rebound skittered to the stick of defenseman Joni Pitkanen. But Thomas had time to dive to his right and get his body in front of Pitkanen's bid.
"That was a positioning save," Thomas said of his stop on Samsonov. "The rebound got kicked out. I saw Pitkanen coming in. I just was going to do anything I possibly could to save that thing. It ended up working out."
It was all the Bruins needed from their goalie. At 18:36, Savard sent a cross-ice pass to Kessel that the winger slammed home, giving his club a two-goal lead.
Kessel made it 3-0 at 4:40 of the second. The Bruins closed out the scoring at 12:21 of the third when Milan Lucic hammered in the rebound of a Michael Ryder shot.
And now, the Bruins have life.
"One team got rolling. The other didn't," said Carolina coach Paul Maurice. "They did a good job coming back and being ready to play, as we expected. We're going to have the same challenge ahead of us."
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.