Eric Staal scored the game's first and last goals to lead the Carolina Hurricanes to a 4-1 win over the Boston Bruins Friday night in front of a standing room only crowd of 18,878 at the RBC. The Hurricanes dominated the first and third periods and matched the physicality of the Bruins throughout the affair. They now are in control of the best of seven series and lead 3-1.
While Staal had two key goals and overtook Ron Francis as the highest postseason scorer in franchise history, Jussi Jokinen was a hero once again as he scored the game-winner about three minutes into the third period.
The Hurricanes opened the contest with a lot of jump and Staal scored the important first goal of the game on a pass from Erik Cole near the end of the team's first powerplay. David Krejci took an incredibly stupid penalty for Boston when he roughed Jussi Jokinen after the whistle was blown in front of Tim Thomas. The boneheaded, needless play eliminated a man advantage for the Bruins and after a few seconds, handed it to the Canes who did not waste the chance.
Carolina outshot Boston 12-4, in that opening period and had a few grade A chances which Tim Thomas was fortunate to stop. The Hurricanes had a bit of luck themselves because the Bruins hit the post twice in the period. Cam Ward also had to stop a break away attempt by PJ Axelsson. Still, the Canes carried the play and were the better team.
In the second period, Tuomo Ruutu was called for holding and this time it was Boston who took advantage. Marc Savard gathered a rebound and flicked it past Cam Ward, to tie the game. But this would be the only goal the Hurricanes goalie would allow on the night.
The third period was all Canes as Jussi Jokinen put in a pass from Rod Brind'Amour for his third game winner and sixth goal of the postseason. Anton Babchuk was also a star on that play as just previous to the goal, he broke up a 2-on-1 break at the other end by diving and tipping the puck with his stick. The young defenseman then used his offensive skill to lift a shot from the point over an outstretched Bruin. The rebound came to Brind'Amour who sent the puck back to the other side of the net. Jokinen was there to scoop up the pass and the Canes led 2-1.
Later in the period, the "Euro Line" would connect again. Tuomo Ruutu made a nice play keeping the puck in the zone and Jokinen passed to an open Sergei Samsonov. The Russian sniper made as nifty a move as you will see as he skated around two Bruins and backhanded the puck past Tim Thomas to make the lead 3-1.
About a minute after that score, the Canes were in the Boston zone pressuring again. The ref's arm went up as he was about to call another penalty on the Bruins and Cam Ward left the crease and headed to the bench so that the Canes could add another attacker. Eric Staal came flying in from the bench, got the puck from Joe Corvo, and skated right past two Bruins who had no prayer to stop him. Carolina's MVP then wristed a tight-angled shot past Thomas and the partying started for the partisan crowd.
The Hurricanes can close out the series in Boston on Sunday night and look like they are perfectly capable of completing the task at hand. In the past three games, the Eastern Conference regular season leaders have not had any answer for the high flying underdogs.
Claude Julien said after the game that his team picked the wrong time to play their worst hockey of the year. But it's starting to look more and more like the Hurricanes are the better team here, not the highly touted Bruins.
It's almost like divine intervention is at work regarding some of Jokinen's goals. He's in the perfect spot at the perfect time and to his credit, has been able to take advantage of his chances. After the game, the red hot player said that he was not finished yet. The team's goal is to win the Cup and they still have a long way to go to. He also had two assists in the third period and was named the game's number one star.
After his goal, the crowd had a nice chant of "U..C......U..C...." going. (The closest English pronunciation of his first name, Jussi)
Tuomo Ruutu was named the game's third star. The fan favorite had eight hits, one assist, two shots on goal, and said after the game that he was having the time of his life. Tim Gleason was next with six hits. The team finished with 35 compared to 37 for Boston.
Eric Staal now has 40 points in just 36 career playoff games and was named second star. He passed Ron Francis for the franchise lead in goals and points and now is tied for the NHL postseason lead with Sidney Crosby. Both have nine goals this postseason.
The win gives Cam Ward a career 22-12 record in the playoffs.
Tim Conboy replaced Ryan Bayda, (flu) and played a smart, penalty-free game while laying out three hits.
Joni Pitkanen continues to lead the team with ice time, (26 plus minutes). He quietly and consistently is able to move the puck successfully out of his own end which had been a trouble spot for the Canes in the past. Last night he showed a bit of a nasty side to his game and dished out three hits while mixing it up in a couple of scrums with the Bruins.
Scott Walker led the team with four blocked shots. Tim Gleason and Dennis Seidenberg had three each. The Canes had a total of 19 compared to 11 for Boston.
Carolina had a total of 31 shots on goal while the Bruins had 21.
When the Hurricanes took the lead 2-1, they did not stop attacking. So much for defensive first hockey. The coach is now trusting the team and they are rewarding him.
Near the end of the game, frustration prevailed and Rod Brind'Amour and Chuck Kobasew went after each other. It's not sure if the captain was upset because he was interfered with, or because he's had two straight games of fourth line minutes. (11 plus) To his credit, he's handled the demotion like a pro in the dressing room so far.
If you want to look for an area that needs improving, the Canes only won 36% of their faceoffs. Brind'Amour was 5 for 14, Staal was 6 for 18, Cullen was 6 for 14, and Jokinen was 2 for 9.