Despite coming into Thursday's game at the TD Banknorth Garden with high hopes and in high spirits, thanks to a mini two-game winning streak and some better play of late, the Bruins suffered a 5-2 setback at the hands of Ray Whitney (3 goals in the second period, 2 assists) and the Carolina Hurricanes.
"(Against) a team like that you have to seize opportunities," said Bruins head coach Dave Lewis. "We opened the door for them and they put us away in a short period of time."
Whitney scored a natural hat trick in the second period to bring the Hurricanes back from a one goal deficit and speed past the home standing Boston squad. The Bruins finished 1-3-0 versus the Hurricanes in the season series.
"It's extremely disappointing," said defenseman Paul Mara. "We played so well for 30-35 minutes and the final five minutes of the second period -- a let down. They came strong (then) and that was the game."
The Bruins had sported a fresh new look at the beginning of the game, with both Jeremy Reich and Brandon Bochenski in the lineup alongside veteran forwards Marco Sturm and Glen Murray -- who both returned from injury (Petr Tenkrat and Stanislav Chistov were the healthy scratches for the Black & Gold).
The new lineup seemed to work right away, as Boston laced 17-shots toward the Carolina net in the first period. Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward looked to be up to the task early on, but missed one from Bochenski (his second goal in as many games with the B's) at 15:32.
That sent the B's to the locker room up, 1-0, thanks in part to Bruins goalie Tim Thomas
, who stopped all 12 shots he faced in the first period.
Most of the action provided to the Garden fans in the first three quarters of the second period came from Bruins defenseman Andrew Alberts, who took on the Hurricanes Scott Walker in a long battle in the Bruins zone.
However, the last third of the period turned against the Black & Gold, and quickly.
When a puck squirted out from behind Thomas' goal, Carolina forward Ray Whitney took advantage of the momentary confusion in the Boston defensive corps and beat the scrambling Bruins netminder to make the score 1-1 at 15:36.
Whitney then turned the same trick, just seconds later, when nearly the same play occurred in front of the Boston net, and he put the B's down 2-1 at 16:45.
"That happened, twice," said Brad Stuart. "And the puck ended up in the back of our net both times. It ended up being pretty costly for us."
Whitney scored again, at 17:16, to earn the hat trick and put the Bruins down 3-1. It was the fastest hat trick in Hartford/Carolina franchise history -- it took just 1 minute, 40-seconds. The fastest hat trick in team history, prior to tonight, happened on October 19, 1985 when Ron Francis scored three goals in 8 minutes, 5 seconds.
By comparison, Whitney's trick was downright slow when compared to Chicago's Bill Mosienko, who scored three goals in 21-seconds in 1952.
Adding insult to injury for the home team on this evening, the Hurricanes scored at 19:57 of the second period, when Justin Williams slipped his 28th by Thomas, and made the score 4-1. Whitney, having the game of his life, assisted on the play.
Bochenski scored his second of the game and third with the B's at 12:36 of the third period, but the home team was unable to generate any momentum.
"I had a lot of chances tonight," said Bochenski. "I'm trying to make a good first impression and I need to score goals if I am going to stick around here.
"So that's what I am trying to do."
Rod Brind'Amour scored an empty netter, with an assist going to Whitney, to make the final 5-2.
"We've been playing 'the playoffs' since the first ten games," said Thomas. "We put ourselves behind the eight ball early, battled back, fell off, battled back…that's the way it's been all year."
Boston will try to bounce back versus Winthrop's Rick DiPietro and his New York Islanders on Saturday night.