RALEIGH, N.C. – The Boston Bruins got back to shooting the puck with a little less caution, and somehow, one shot wound up finding its way past Cam Ward.
Then came another goal, followed by another. Just like that, their long losing streak was history. David Krejci had a short-handed goal and an assist, and the Bruins pulled away late to snap a season-worst four-game slide, routing the listless Carolina Hurricanes 5-1 on Tuesday night.
“Whenever you’re in a slide as a team, you want to go back to doing the little things. That’s throwing pucks at the net and crashing the net,” defenceman Shane Hnidy said. “We needed to get some goals. It came easy for us at the beginning of the year, and in this slide, sometimes the bounces don’t go your way. We threw pucks at the net and fortunately we got some goals tonight. We were rewarded.”
Hnidy scored the go-ahead goal in the second period, Patrice Bergeron had an empty-net goal and an assist and Chuck Kobasew and Blake Wheeler also scored for Boston.
The NHL’s best team became the first to reach 40 wins by continuing its dominance of the Southeast Division, rallying from an early deficit and surging with three goals in the final 3:48 to clinch its first sweep of the franchise that once was its New England-based rival.
“I don’t think we ever pushed the panic button,” Bruins forward P.J. Axelsson said. “I just know we had to be desperate out there tonight. We’re back on the winning track.”
Matt Cullen scored for the Hurricanes, whose recent home-ice troubles continued. They have been outscored 15-2 in three home games in a six-day stretch to remain five points behind the four teams that hold the bottom four spots in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
“You can’t play like this at home and expect to make the playoffs,” forward Ray Whitney said. “So we’ve got to change something.”
Tim Thomas stopped 31 shots, including all 21 he faced in the final two periods, while improving to 6-2-2 in his last 10 games for the Bruins.
They are a combined 12-0 against every Southeast team but Washington, and sealed their first sweep of the Hurricanes since the franchise joined the NHL in 1979 as the Hartford Whalers. Boston won all four meetings by a combined 18-6.
“We were ready to finish them off with a solid third period,” Hnidy said.
The Bruins turned this one into a laugher with a third-period flurry that started when Krejci’s backhander beat Ward, making it 3-1 with 3:48 remaining. Kobasew tipped in a Zdeno Chara blast a minute later, and Bergeron capped the scoring with an empty-netter with 51 seconds left – his first goal since Nov. 21.
“Tonight was the night – all I needed was no goalie,” Bergeron quipped.
Hnidy put Boston ahead for good roughly 5:34 into the second after Krejci won a draw against Rod Brind’Amour, annually the best face-off man in the NHL. The puck scooted behind the right circle to Hnidy, and the Boston defenceman snapped it past Ward, who never seemed to get an eye on it.
Ward stopped 29 shots for Carolina, which retired veteran defenceman Glen Wesley’s jersey No. 2 during a pre-game ceremony. But those warm, fuzzy feelings were long gone after this one – the Hurricanes were booed as they left the ice.
“At home, for whatever reason, we haven’t played very well,” Whitney said. “It is embarrassing. It’s frustrating to have your fans boo you when you leave the ice – not that it’s not warranted. Certainly frustrating and a little bit humiliating.”
Whitney and Cullen teamed midway through the first to give Carolina its only lead. Whitney chased the puck down near the blue line and brought it down the ice, looping around the left side before he backhanded a pass to Cullen, who one-timed it past Thomas to temporarily make it 1-0.
Notes: The Hurricanes played without RW Justin Williams, who broke his hand two days earlier against Buffalo. C Michael Ryan was called up from Albany (AHL) to replace him. … Carolina C Tuomo Ruutu skated in his 300th career game. … There was a bizarre confrontation in the final minute of the first, when the six-foot-nine Chara briefly went toe-to-toe with diminutive Carolina C Chad LaRose, who’s nearly a foot shorter. Both players received two-minute roughing penalties.