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The Boston Bruins did just about everything they could against the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday night at the TD Garden. They won over 70 percent of their face-offs. They hit hard and often. And they ripped shot after shot after shot at goalie Cam Ward.
They just couldn’t score.
Ward saved all 47 shots against him Wednesday, and the Hurricanes scored in each period to beat the Bruins, 3-0. With the win, the Hurricanes completed their first season-sweep of the Bruins in franchise history.
The Bruins put Ward to work almost instantly Wednesday night. David Krejci won the opening faceoff – one of 38 faceoff victories – and the Bruins went on the attack. Tyler Seguin and Chris Kelly both fired at Ward within the first two minutes of the game, but Ward turned them both aside.
The Bruins kept this attack up throughout the period, hammering but never fooling Ward. They couldn’t even score when Brad Marchand stole a puck in the Hurricanes’ zone and found Patrice Bergeron wide open in the slot.
Ward’s defense backed him up by rarely allowing loose pucks to bounce the Bruins’ way. The Bruins had plenty of scoring chances, but they had very few second or third chances. That meant Ward could get back into position after every shot, never getting caught out of the goal or turned the wrong way.
Unable to score despite 22 first-period shots, the Bruins came out of the first intermission clearly dejected. They took just five shots in the second, unable to muster the same ferocity with which they played the first. That dejection turned into frustration in the third, when the Bruins took 20 more shots.
Ward turned aside all 20 shots, and the Bruins finally lost their composure. Given two third-period power plays that could have helped the Bruins get back into the game, they shortened both with penalties of their own. They killed their second play just eight seconds in, when Marchand slashed defenseman Bryan Allen.
The Hurricanes scored all three goals through aggressive fore-checking that led to defensive mistakes by the Bruins. When center Tuomo Ruutu jammed Johnny Boychuk at the goal line, bending Boychuk’s arm awkwardly into the boards and temporarily sending him off the ice, Jiri Tlusty swooped in grabbed the puck. Tlusty sent the puck through the crease to Eric Staal, who one-timed it past Tuukka Rask for the 1-0 lead at 11:51.
Aggressive offense paid off again in the second, when Anthony Stewart sent a moon shot over the blue line. The puck bounced in between Andrew Ference and Adam McQuaid, but neither took control, staring at each other as the puck stayed in no man’s land.
Rather than give up on the play, Brandon Sutter burst through the two defenders, firing off a shot that forced Rask to sprawl to deflect the pass. Ruuttu grabbed the rebound, spinning and backhanding the puck into the open net for a 2-0 lead with just over three minutes left in the second.
Sutter earned his second point of the night early in the third period, when Rask skated behind the goal, corralling a loose puck and slinging it away along the boards. Andreas Nodl jumped in front of the pass, grabbing the puck by the right circle and quickly getting it to a nearby Sutter.
Sutter immediately fired off a wristshot from just outside the slot, catching Rask slightly off-guard and putting the Hurricanes ahead 3-0. The goal silenced the TD Garden crowd and killed any lingering hopes that the Bruins might at least tie the game.
The Bruins have not played well in two games following the All-Star Break, giving up six goals on defense and lacking balance between the lines on offense. For the Bruins to re-take the top spot in the Eastern Conference, they’ll need to fix both of these problems. They can’t continue to play lackadaisically on defense, allowing aggressive but untalented teams like the Hurricanes to dictate what happens once the puck crosses the blue line. And they can’t settle for one good shift, followed by a couple of bad ones.
The Marchand-Bergeron-Seguin line (which has three of the top five goal- and point-scorers on the team) can’t continue to do it all. Another line must step up to share the responsibility.
Tags: Adam McQuaid, andreas nodl, Andrew Ference, anthony stewart, Boston Bruins, Brad Marchand, brandon sutter, bryan allen, Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes, Chris Kelly, David Krejci, Eric Staal, jiri tlusty, Johnny Boychuk, NHL, Patrice Bergeron, Tuomo Ruutu, Tuukka Rask, Tyler Seguin