The first 59 minutes of play went perfectly for Boston. The power play unit put the B’s ahead 1-0 4:50 into the game. Zdeno Chara, sitting in the crease, deflected a high shot over Cam Ward’s blocker. Marco Sturm got an assist, as did Marc Savard. It was Marc’s 52nd assist, which puts him ahead of Pavel Datsyuk for the NHL lead in that category.
The 1st period saw 34 penalty minutes, two fights, and 37 total shots on goal. The action died down just a little in the 2nd, but both teams continued to pepper the goalies, combining for 31 shots in the middle period.
Savard added to the Bruins’ lead with an uncharacteristic shot. Savard is known more for his playmaking and passing abilities, so opposing teams give him just a bit more space in an effort to intercept those passes. I’m not sure if the ‘Canes did this intentionally, or by accident; but they did it 14:28 into the 2nd, leaving Savard at the top of the faceoff circle, on the power play. Marc slapped a rising shot past Ward to make it a 2-0 game.
With a two goal lead, I was fairly confident. The Bruins are 20-1 with a two goal lead this season. But then they did what they’ve done far too often lately. They lost their edge. All of a sudden, possessions in the offensive zone lasted 4 or 5 seconds. Passes bounced off sticks. Players didn’t seem to know how to play with a two goal lead.
Glen Murray became a shooting machine. Whenever he had the puck and could see the net, he shot. This resulted in short offensive threats. With a two goal lead, Murray can afford to be more patient, and less desperate to score. He can, I don’t know, maybe pass the puck, or skate around with it.
Glen wasn’t alone with the bizarre plays. Marco Sturm forced a turnover in the neutral zone, and skated up ice with Chuck Kobasew. Two Carolina defenseman were in front of them (in other words, 2 on 2), but instead of bringing the puck over the blue-line, or passing to Kobasew, or dumping the puck into the corner; Sturm turned around, circumnavigated the neutral zone, and wound up behind his own defensive blue-line. The Hurricanes didn’t just sit back and allow him to do this. Sturm and the Bruins actually struggled against the Carolina forecheck before finally bringing the puck into the neutral zone.
Sturm’s figure skating took time off the clock, about 30 seconds, but there was still about 8:20 left on the clock. At that point, with a two goal lead, the best thing to do is try to score a third. At the very least, keep the puck in THEIR zone, wear THEM out, force THEM to work hard to move the puck up ice.
The Bruins could only muster 6 shots in the 3rd. Carolina remained relentless and put 14 shots on net in the period. A pair of Chara mistakes opened the doors for Carolina to get back into the game. A soft clearance attempt was picked off by Eric Staal on the right wing boards. Staal passed to Andrew Ladd in the right slot, who quickly gave it to Ray Whitney, who had snuck behind the defense and had an open net to shoot at. Tic-tac-toe and it was 2-1.
A few moments later, Chara once again found himself in a position to clear the defensive zone. But almost as if he were trying to atone for his previous failure, he whipped the puck 180 feet up the ice, past P.J. Axelsson, and past the Carolina goal line for icing. Although the Bruins won the ensuing faceoff before forfeiting possession and giving up a goal, the icing call hurt. Carolina could keep their goalie pulled with the faceoff in the Bruins’ defensive end.
But the Bruins kept their composure. Although the Hurricanes had all the momentum, Tim Thomas stood up strong in the overtime, stopping 3 shots and forcing the shootout.
Marco Sturm took the first shot for Boston, despite coming into the game 6 of 20 in his career and 0 for 3 on the season in penalty shots. He missed. But eventually Phil Kessel put Boston ahead 1-0. After Thomas made a stop, David Krejci beat Ward and ended the game. Krejci has still yet to score a real goal in the NHL.
Tim Thomas had one of his best nights of the season in net. He tied a season high with 45 saves, and of course made a big save in the shootout to allow Krejci to win it. He’s become the most reliable player on the team. And with him in net, anything seems possible.
The Bruins got two big points on the road against a division leader, but it’s hard to be overjoyed with the win. Lately, the Bruins have not played well with a lead. After giving up some late goals recently, perhaps they’ve lost some confidence. They certainly seem lost at times when ahead.
But the important thing is that they got two points, which puts them two points ahead of 9th place Buffalo.
AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker