It’s not necessarily how you start, it’s how you finish. That was certainly the case for the Boston Bruins as they finished their seven-game road trip with a decisive 5-2 victory Tuesday night over the Carolina Hurricanes.
The win gives the Bruins a 3-3-1 record on the trip as they return home to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday at TD Garden.
Boston is hanging onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the East with 13 games remaining in the regular season.
The Bruins dominated the first and third periods against the Hurricanes, as Boston was able to get pucks to the net, took advantage of turnovers and received solid goaltending en route to victory.
Key to the game: Scoring early was a major factor for the Bruins. Boston was able to carry over its late-game momentum from Monday’s 3-2 loss to the Devils. A strong forecheck resulted in the Bruins' first goal just 23 seconds into the game when Patrice Bergeron tipped home a Dennis Seidenberg shot from the point for a 1-0 advantage. That early goal set the tone.
Biggest concern: In the waning minutes of the game, Bergeron was drilled on the inside of his right knee by a Mark Stuart slap shot. It was obvious Bergeron was in pain and was taken to the locker room. X-rays taken at the RBC Center came back negative and it’s believed Bergeron only suffered a bruise. He’s been solid all season, especially of late with Marc Savard out of the lineup with a concussion, so losing Bergeron for any length of time could have a detrimental effect on the Bruins’ playoff hopes.
Defense equals offense: After the Bruins completely dominated the first 20 minutes of the game, the Hurricanes were equally as good in the first 10 minutes of the second period. Boston’s defense stepped up at both ends of the ice to stifle the Hurricanes attack and resulted in a Bruins goal. Carolina produced a quality scoring chance with a 2-on-1 break but it was broken up by Boston defenseman Matt Hunwick. The Bruins quickly transitioned and finished the play when defenseman Johnny Boychuk jumped up into the play, took a pass from Hunwick and beat Carolina netminder Manny Legace to the 5-hole to give Boston a 2-0 lead.
Special teams: With the Bruins holding a 1-0 lead in the first period, Carolina had two men in the penalty box as Boston had a two-man advantage for 1:41 but the Bruins were not able to capitalize. Boston had another man advantage soon after and again couldn’t score. The Bruins were able to sustain pressure in the offensive zone during the power play, but couldn’t light the lamp. Boston went 0-for-4 on the power play and will need to improve in this area down the stretch.
Saves of the game: It’s tough to pick just one for Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, who finished the night with 30 saves. He came up big time and again.
His first big save came midway through the second period with the Bruins holding a two-goal lead. Carolina was on the power play and had a quality scoring chance before Rask stopped Joni Pitkanen with a blocker save, then Rask flashed a pad save on the rebound, stopping Ryan Whitney.
The Hurricanes did convert a power-play goal on the same man-advantage to cut their deficit to one.
Rask came up huge again early in the third as the Hurricanes began the period on the power play. Rask made a point-blank save on Jussi Jokinen and the stop turned into a goal as Bruins winger David Krejci grabbed the rebound and fed Mark Recchi, who was just stepping out of the penalty box. The veteran raced in and beat Legace to the short side to give Boston a 3-1 advantage.
Up next: Unless you’ve been living in the penalty box, you know exactly whom the Bruins play next -- the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke dealt Savard a grade 2 concussion on a blindside hit on March 7 in Pittsburgh. Cooke did not receive a penalty on the play and was not suspended by the league for the hit. Savard most likely is lost for the season. As much as fans want to see retribution, the Bruins desperately need the points. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.