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The Boston Bruins needed a complete effort Sunday night in Game 5 to prolong this Eastern Conference semifinal against the upset-minded Carolina Hurricanes. And that is exactly what they delivered, playing their best game of the series in taking a dominating 4-0 victory.
Phil Kessel scored a pair of goals, Mark Recchi connected on the power play and Milan Lucic added a goal as the Bruins forced a Game 6 on Tuesday night in Raleigh.
Carolina still leads 3-games-to-2, but Boston certainly put the series back in play with a dominating performance that saw the Bruins come out flying at the start and never take their foot off the gas pedal.
“Showing up at the rink tonight, I just tried to show up looking happy and positive, and hopefully the team can feed off of that,” said goalie Tim Thomas, who earned his first career playoff shutout with a 19-save performance.
The game was scoreless for nearly 15 minutes before the Bruins broke through for a pair of goals in the latter stages of the first period. It took Recchi only seven seconds to convert after a slashing penalty to Dennis Seidenberg put Boston on the power play. He redirected a Zdeno Chara point shot past Carolina goalie Cam Ward at 14:48 to open the scoring. Chara finished the night with two assists and a plus-3 rating.
“Obviously we needed to come in tonight with more energy and we needed to be a little more committed to playing the way we’ve talked about, our team the way it has played all year,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “We saw signs of that.”
Kessel got on the board with 1:24 left in the first, letting go a one-timer off a precision cross-ice pass by Marc Savard. The duo teamed up again 4:40 into the second for a 3-0 Boston lead, as Savard rushed down the left side before centering to Kessel between the circles for a drive that beat Ward.
Lucic capped the big offensive effort by the Bruins with a slapper off the rebound of a Michael Ryder shot with 7:39 left in the third. At that point it was all over except for the shouting — and a few late altercations with a Hurricanes squad that came in hoping to end the series and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, but wound up frustrated instead.
“We weren’t very quick, which is a really big part of our game,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “I think that affects everything else that we do. We didn’t drive our feet the way we need to â€¦ there’s not much more. It’s the driving force in our game.”
Ward allowed four goals on 40 shots for Carolina, which seemingly took control of the series by winning three straight games after losing the opener. The games in Raleigh were particularly tough for Boston, which dropped Game 3 in overtime and was soundly defeated 4-1 two nights later.
“I think we went from maybe Game 2 not doing enough to Games 3 and 4 doing too much,” Thomas said. “We just tried to be more composed.”
Boston finished atop the Eastern Conference with 116 points, just one fewer than the Presidents’ Trophy-winning San Jose Sharks. But the Bruins still need to win two more elimination games in order to avoid the same fate suffered by the Sharks in the first round — an early playoff exit.
“Obviously I wasn’t here all year,” said Recchi, a trade deadline acquisition from Tampa Bay, “but this team has been through a lot together and they rallied around each other yesterday and today.
“We know this is only one step. We’re still down in the series. We’ve got a two-game series here and we’ve got to go down there and play our best game Tuesday night and then hopefully take it back home here. We’ve worked hard all year to get home ice. If we go down there and do what we have to do, we can come back here and see what we do from there.”