Bruins drop Hurricanes with knockout punch
In a dark 2008-09 season when he was dizzied by head and neck woes, then permanently parked when he blew out his left knee Dec. 18, Marco Sturm was reduced to team tailor. Sturm, desperate to weave himself into the club’s fabric, purchased robes for all of his teammates, adorned with some colorful nicknames (David Krejci, for example, was dubbed “Princess’’). Sturm also bought “Stay Hungry’’ hats for the entire team.
But serving as cheerleader and chief robe-and-hat man was little consolation for the left wing. While his teammates thumped the Canadiens in the first round and took the Hurricanes to overtime in Game 7, Sturm could only watch.
So after a season-opening embarrassment against Washington Thursday, Sturm wasn’t about to play another so-so game without putting his nose squarely into the thick of the action. Last night, Sturm led the charge in a 7-2 thumping of the Hurricanes before 16,592 at TD Garden. Sturm had a goal and an assist and found himself at the center of a fracas that added even more heat to the Boston-Carolina rivalry.
“It’s kind of what everybody had to do,’’ coach Claude Julien said of Sturm’s effort. “We had to work harder. We had to get more involved. We had to win races and battles and do what it took to win the hockey game. We talk about the work ethic, but also about the commitment to do those things. That’s what Marco did.’’
The Bruins are asking much of Sturm, with the primary task to fill Phil Kessel’s skates as Marc Savard’s right wing. For his entire Bruins career, Sturm has skated on the left side, with Patrice Bergeron being his usual centerman.
In the first period, after Savard broke the ice with a power-play goal at 4:06, Sturm helped the Bruins take a two-goal lead. After the Hurricanes were caught with too many men on the ice, Sturm, as the net-front presence on the No. 1 power-play unit, parked himself in front of Cam Ward. As Zdeno Chara took a shot from the point, Sturm screened Ward and also engaged Andrew Alberts in a tussle for position. Ward stopped Chara’s shot, but because of the ruckus Sturm caused, Michael Ryder found the puck in the slot and rapped the rebound into an empty net at 12:38.
In the second period, up 3-0 (Blake Wheeler scored at 13:04 of the first), Sturm initiated more offense. Sturm, on the forecheck, slammed into Alberts when the ex-Bruin defenseman had the puck on the wall. Because of Sturm’s forecheck, Alberts had to give up the puck to Aaron Ward. In turn, Ward coughed up the puck to Savard. Sturm broke to the net, took a pass from Savard, and scored his first goal at 10:37. Carolina coach Paul Maurice yanked Cam Ward after the goal.
“Overall, we did a good job keeping those guys in,’’ Sturm said of the forecheck. “If you pressure hard, we’ve got guys to do it on our line. [Milan Lucic] gives us a lot of room. It pays off.’’
Late in the second (the score was an out-of-hand 6-1 by then), on the first faceoff following Lucic’s face-opening thumping of Jay Harrison (the big left wing also bloodied Ottawa’s Chris Neil in the preseason), Sturm raced after a puck. He was facing the boards when Alberts cross-checked him in the back. Savard, sticking up for his linemate, jumped Alberts, who responded by landing a few pops on the center’s face. That prompted Derek Morris to jump into the fracas, and also sparked a side bout of Chara vs. Tom Kostopoulos.
“I thought it was a dirty hit from what I saw,’’ said Savard. “It doesn’t matter the time of game, because you’re always going to stick up for your teammates. They would do the same for me.’’
At 9:34 of the third, Alberts had to answer for his sins when Shawn Thornton came calling.
“Everybody in this room cares for each other,’’ Morris said. “We don’t just like each other. We care about each other. We’re going to have five guys in there, whether we win or lose. We’re going to have everybody in there to stick up for each other.’’
Sturm added a third-period assist on the power play when he threaded a cross-ice pass to a pinching Matt Hunwick at 8:29. The final line for Sturm: two points, three shots, two takeaways, 12:21 of ice time, lots of smiles, and the first win of 2009-10.