RALEIGH, N.C. — Shawn Thornton and Chris Kelly are two of the Bruins’ more responsible forwards. But in the second period Monday night at PNC Arena, turnovers by Thornton and Kelly turned into a pair of Carolina goals within 50 seconds.
First, Jordan Staal picked off a Thornton pass. Seconds later, Jeff Skinner went upstairs on Anton Khudobin. Less than a minute later, Alexander Semin stepped in front of Kelly’s clearing attempt. After the turnover, Eric Staal netted the tying goal.
And just like that, a 3-1 Bruins lead had turned into a tie game by the end of 40 minutes.
As badly as the Bruins felt about the two-goal giveback, their coach knew they still had a window to win.
“Last time I looked, it was a 3-3 hockey game,’’ Claude Julien recalled telling his players at second intermission. “We can’t hang our head and drag that into the third. We’ve got to go back and win ourselves a 20-minute period. Our guys really did a good job of answering the call.’’
With 1:50 remaining in regulation, David Krejci scored the winning goal. Tyler Seguin added an empty-netter as the Bruins recorded a 5-3 triumph over the Hurricanes. The Bruins have recorded nine out of 10 possible points through five games.
The game-winning sequence featured individual heroics at both ends. Nathan Horton, who had scored in the second period, had a sniff for another strike. From in tight, Horton tried to go upstairs on Cam Ward. The Carolina goaltender responded with a flash of his glove to keep the puck out.
But the Bruins’ youngest player answered with a dazzler of his own. Dougie Hamilton found the rebound. There was too much traffic in front for the rookie to try for the net. Jussi Jokinen was ready to hit the deck, assuming Hamilton would take a rip for the goal.
Instead, Hamilton went against the grain to Krejci. Ward couldn’t recover in time to stop Krejci’s game-winning shot.
“I think we’re going to see a lot of that stuff,’’ Julien said. “The one thing that impressed me this year in junior is the vision that he has. He sees the ice so well and finds those open seams.’’
The Bruins were at their best in the third period. The go-go Hurricanes had swarmed the Boston net through the first two periods. The Hurricanes had 24 shots through 40 minutes.
But the Bruins played more of their grinding style in the third. They pounded 17 shots on Ward in the third while limiting the Hurricanes to just eight looks on goal.
Before Carolina’s second-period comeback, the Bruins had swiped a pair of two-goal leads. In the first period, two special-teams goals gave the Bruins a 2-0 advantage. Brad Marchand scored the team’s first shorthanded goal of the season at 3:16.
Less than three minutes later, Zdeno Chara snapped a power-play point shot past Ward (33 saves) at 6:15. Chara had help from Milan Lucic, who set an eclipse-like screen on Ward.
Jamie McBain got Carolina on the board with his first goal of the season at 14:50. In the second period, Horton answered with a skate through the neutral zone, a dangle around Tim Gleason, and a snapper past Ward at 15:52.
Part of the reason the Bruins took a two-goal lead late into the second was the play of Khudobin. The No. 2 goalie, making his first start of the season, was sharp through 40 minutes when the Hurricanes applied the most heat.
“I felt comfortable before the game,’’ he said. “I felt comfortable during the game, at the start and at the end. Guys helped me out. They blocked lots of shots. Some shots didn’t get through. That was good too. I made a couple of saves too.’’
Khudobin made one of his best saves in the second period. Semin blew past Chara to get a good scoring chance. Had Semin scored, the game would have been tied at 2. Instead, Khudobin booted out Semin’s shot. Later in the shift, Horton scored his goal to give the Bruins the 3-1 advantage.
Khudobin (29 saves) will give the net back to Tuukka Rask Tuesday against New Jersey. It’s possible Rask could start Thursday against Buffalo and Saturday against Toronto. But Khudobin proved that even after sitting for four games, he can come in and give the Bruins what they need.
“He’s one of those guys who you watch in practice and watch in games, he’s two different goaltenders,’’ Julien said. “We saw that last year. Some guys are like that. They’re better game goaltenders than practice goaltenders. He seemed focused and ready this morning. He was excited about playing. I thought he played a really solid game. They knew it was his first game. They threw everything at him. He faced the shots. I thought he did a great job. He handled the rebounds well. There were scrambles and they crashed the net a lot. But he was very poised.’’