The Boston Bruins hosted the Carolina Hurricanes in a matinee Saturday game. This is the second time the teams have met this season, with the first game being less than a week ago. The Bruins visited the Hurricanes on November 18th and skated to an easy 4-1 victory. Reilly Smith, Carl Soderberg, and Milan Lucic all had two point games, each registering a goal and an assist. The teams will meet one final time this season, on March 15th in Boston. Coincidentally that’s also an afternoon game.
Chad Johnson made only his fourth start of the season as Tuukka Rask has been on a roll for the Bruins. He faced off against Cam Ward for the Hurricanes. The Bruins put the pressure on early, but Ward stood tall and the Bruins seemed to have trouble capitalizing on their chances. The third and fourth lines were showing strength early on. Before even getting on the board, just 3:12 in, Hurricanes defenseman Andrej Sekera blocked a shot with his foot and was slow to get up. The Bruins were the first to head to the penalty kill as Soberberg goes off for hooking at 4:47. While the Hurricanes finally got their first shot during the power play, the real turn came when they struck first. Sekera fired a shot from the point with assists to Brett Skinner and Eric Staal.
At 12:03, the Bruins headed to their first power play when Manny Malhotra went off for high sticking double minor. During the first half of the penalty, the Bruins struggled to stay set up with Jordan Staal even getting a little bit of shorthanded attempt. But the Bruins would answer with a power play goal of their own, 45 seconds into the second minor. Torey Krug made an impressive redirection to Milan Lucic. Lucic took the initial shot and Zdeno Chara was there at the corner to drive the puck home. By the time the teams went to the first intermission, the ice had clearly tilted back in favor of the Bruins who had more than doubled up on shots, despite the score being tied at 1.
“I think we’re producing the chances we’re just not finishing them, and because of that we had a 1-1 game at the end of the first period,” Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien said.
The Bruins went on their second power play early on in the second and had a great attempt set up by Soderberg, but were unable to convert. All of the Bruins lines seemed to be generating some good chances but were having trouble finishing even as Ward gave up some good rebounds. Brad Marchand had a shot all alone and Ward came up with a huge save, sprawling out to keep the game tied. Tuomo Ruutu had a big shot for Carolina, but ended up crashing into the net as Johnson made the save.
At 13:31 of the second, the Bruins took their first lead of the game as Reilly Smith slid one past Ward. With the traffic in front of the net, Smith was able to capitalize. The assists went to Soderberg and Matt Bartkowski. The ice seemed to be tilted in favor of the Bruins, who took 12 shots during the second frame to the Hurricanes 4. Chad Johnson did not have to make many saves but some that he did make were really big ones. With less than a minute remaining in the middle frame, tensions boiled over slightly as Kevan Miller appeared to get cross checked into his own goalie, Johnson. There was pushing and shoving but no penalties resulted.
“[Kelly] was tied up in front so he kind of set up a good pick, I didn’t want to force it right through and I thought I might have a little more net going to my backhand. Cam [Ward] still almost had it so I was kind of lucky that it snuck through,” Smith said of his goal.
The Bruins came out strong at the start of the third. With a lot of bodies in front of Ward, he went down. Jerome Iginla had a great shot at a wide open net, but rang it off the post. The Hurricanes quickly tried to change the tables, registering 5 shots in less than the first five minute of the third but Johnson stood tall and came up big for the Bruins.
Carolina got called for too many men, but the Bruins once again struggle to get set up. Instead, 45 seconds into the penalty at 11:10, Patrick Dwyer broke away short handed and fired one past Johnson. The third period saw a definite increase in shots as well. Carolina had 10 through the first two periods, but registered 14 in the third. After looking dominate through the game, Carolina and Boston had to head to extra time for a decision. The Hurricanes have dropped their last three and it showed in the third as they were looking hungry to get at least a point out of this game.
David Krecji would be the hero to keep the game out of a shootout though and win it in overtime for Boston. Krecji was on a five game stretch without a point. The goal could not have come at a better time. He easily put the puck in the top corner. It was just what the Bruins needed in their second straight game to go to extra time. The Bruins opted for 3 forwards and one defenseman in the overtime four on four hockey, which clearly paid off.
“Sometimes that patience pays off and it paid off on that winning goal, no doubt. He didn’t panic with it and sometimes you wish that he’d have less patience and make things happen a little quicker,” Julien said of Krecji. “But he slows the game down to his pace a lot of times and when he’s on top of his game it really throws the other team off.”
The Bruins are back at it tomorrow, hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins. The two teams are at the top of their respective divisions, battling for the lead in the conference. It is sure to be a good match up.