BOSTON – Boston winger Milan Lucic didn’t hide the thoughts many of his teammates may have had in the Bruins’ locker room following a fairly easy win over Carolina.
“I just hope we’re not peaking right now and keep wanting more,” Lucic said after the Eastern Conference-leading Bruins beat the Hurricanes 5-1 on Saturday afternoon for their eighth straight victory.
“We’ve done a good job of staying focused and keeping on the task at hand,” he said. “It seems like we’re playing at our highest level of the season so far. It seems to have gotten better since the start of February and Olympic break.”
Jarome Iginla scored a pair of goals and backup goaltender Chad Johnson made 29 saves, helping extend the Bruins’ longest winning streak since a 10-game stretch in November 2011.
Lucic had a goal and two assists, Torey Krug and Chris Kelly each scored a goal and David Krejci added three assists, his first coming as he was falling to the ice on Lucic’s score.
Bruins coach Claude Julien wasn’t about to say his team is playing its best.
“If he thinks we’re peaking too soon I can show him areas where we can play better,” he said, breaking into a grin. “We’re playing well and working hard.”
Alexander Semin had the goal and Cam Ward made 36 saves for the Hurricanes, who lost for the eighth time in 11 games.
Johnson, playing with regular goalie Tuukka Rask getting the day off, is 8-0-1 in his past nine starts.
Bruins defenceman Johnny Boychuk had to be helped off the ice favouring his right leg after going off-balance into the boards midway into the third period. He was back about a minute later and ended up blocking a shot before limping off on his next shift.
Boston grabbed a 1-0 lead on Lucic’s goal 15:28 into the opening period. Krejci was falling after being tripped on what would have been a penalty on Eric Staal, but he pushed the puck ahead to Lucic. The winger then snapped off a quick shot inside the right post into a wide-open area with Ward over near the other post.
“It’s funny. I was talking to him after the play,” Lucic said, smiling. “He said he was going to shoot it. It’s a bit of a lucky play to come back to me. Again, you’ve gotta be lucky to be good sometimes. That’s what happened there. That’s how it goes sometimes. You can be working hard and playing well and things don’t go your way.”
Lucic then set up Iginla to make it 2-0 at 17:24 of the second. The Bruins’ rugged winger outworked defenceman Jay Harrison for the puck in the corner, hustled to it behind the net and sent a pass out front to Iginla, who fired a wrist shot inside the far post over Ward’s glove.
Semin ended Johnson’s shutout bid 3:53 into the third when his shot caromed off the stick of Boychuk and bounced into the net.
Boston broke it open with two goals later in the period before Krug scored in the final seconds.
“Yeah, you know what, they’re a good hockey team, they’re physical,” Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. “It was disappointing for us because we’ve been playing pretty good hockey recently. Usually, as the game goes on we get stronger and stronger, but I don’t think we pushed back well enough tonight after they came out hard in the first. They set the tone and I don’t think we really responded—even though the game was a 2-1 game for the most part.”
Kelly’s score made it 3-1 at 12:49 and Iginla scored his team-leading 23rd goal 13 seconds later, firing a wrister past Ward from the slot.
Johnson had a key save late in the second after Boston made it 2-0 when he made a right pad stop on Staal at the end of a 2-on-1 break.
“I thought we didn’t capitalize on opportunities, and that always hurts us obviously early in the game, and then they just kept coming,” Hurricanes forward Nathan Gerbe said.
NOTES: Bruins C Matt Lindblad played his first NHL game and Krug was back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch in the previous game. … The Hurricanes entered the game with the league’s 29th ranked power play and went 0 for 3. … Playing a Carolina team not known for physical play, Julien elected to make enforcer Shawn Thornton a healthy scratch. … Iginla played his 1,300th career game. … Boston swept the three games against Carolina this season. … Boston F Gregory Campbell impressed the crowd and drew some loud ‘oohs’ when he tipped a shot between his legs with his back to Ward in the second period. … Boston C Patrice Bergeron was whistled for three minor penalties. … The Hurricanes host Edmonton on Sunday. … Boston D Dougie Hamilton sent Jeff Skinner flying to the ice with a hard check in the third.