BOSTON -- With their season on the line, the Boston Bruins watched their power play, so good throughout the season and in the first-round sweep of Montreal, fail miserably -- a shortcoming that goes a long way to explaining Thursday's season-ending 3-2 overtime loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
"Special teams usually win games," said center Patrice Bergeron, one of the mainstays on Boston's power play. "Especially at home, we are pretty good at getting the big goal for our team, but we didn't do that and it cost us."
Boston had four power plays on Thursday, including three in the second period. The last two came after former Bruin Sergei Samsonov had staked Carolina to a 2-1 lead with his goal at 7:45 of the second period.
But Boston never found any rhythm with the man advantage -- they managed only one shot on each of the last two power plays.
With Frantisek Kaberle in the box for hooking Shawn Thornton, Boston had trouble keeping the zone and Zdeno Chara's big slapper, gloved by Cam Ward, was the only legitimate threat. Three minutes later, Samsonov was off for a needless holding penalty in the attacking zone. But a not-very-dangerous slapper from Steve Montador was the only offense.
"(Our power play) probably wasn't where we wanted it to be, there's no doubt," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "The power play in the second round just didn't seem to have the same swagger, the same confidence and that certainly didn't help our cause."
In the regular season, Boston was tied for fourth in power-play efficiency, succeeding 23.6 percent of the time. At home, the Bruins were even more deadly, posting a 28 percent success rate.
But in this series, Boston was just 2-for 25, including an almost-unimaginable 1-for-18 at home.
It's important that Carolina be acknowledged for its part in the equation. The Hurricanes were the most aggressive kill Boston has seen in a while. They get in on the forecheck and force the opposition's defenseman to make quicker decisions with the puck -- and in the defensive zone, they pressure the points with a zealousness that few teams possess.
"Our penalty kill has been very important for our team," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said.
So important that there is a legitimate argument to be made that Carolina's potent penalty kill -- or Boston's anemic power play -- is the reason the Hurricanes, and not the favored Bruins, are moving on to play Pittsburgh in the next round.
"Especially in a game like tonight, you need your power play to give you that goal," Julien said. "Had they done that, the game might have had a different result."