Raleigh, NC - The Black & Gold traveled into Carolina with a monkey on their backs - an 0-0-4 record last season against the Hurricanes that they had already mentally turned the page on, but successfully made it evident on the score sheet tonight - with a 5-3 victory over the Southern rivals in Anton Khudobin's first start of the season.
"We don’t go back to last year even though we knew we didn’t have a good series with them," Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said following the game in which he finished with a goal and two assists. "We want to focus on this year and this season. I think having a good start in any game is a big plus for your team, get on the opposite team and create turnovers. That’s always big."
"They took four games from us [last season]," B's winger Nathan Horton acknowledged after the win, though Boston knew it had to start with a clean slate against a team on a two-game win streak. "They really play hard and we were expecting a pretty tight game. It was tight for the whole game. I thought we played well."
"The big thing is we got the win, in the end that’s all that matters."
Boston came into tonight looking to stifle the speedy offense led by Eric and Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner and Alexander Semin - and Head Coach Claude Julien liked the fast pace of the game.
"It was a real good skating game - both teams enjoyed putting pucks in the other team's end," said Coach Julien. "So it wasn't too much wasted time in the neutral zone and you got some quick breakouts and then pucks back in the other end, so a lot of back and forth."
The Bruins and Canes certainly played a tight, back-and-forth game for most of the night, but it was the brooding forward Horton who manufactured some open ice for himself in the second period, pulling the B's out to a 3-1 lead with 4:08 remaining.
Putting on a clinic for all in attendance, Horton danced his way from the left wing side, through the neutral zone, and up the right wing, getting past three Carolina defensemen in the process before dangling on Cam Ward. The Canes netminder went for the poke-check, but No. 18's patience paid off and he was able to place it right under the crossbar on Ward's short side.
"I got some speed and I just kind of pulled it in," said Horton, on not really thinking up his plan of attack in the neutral zone, but just finding the seams and feeling his way to the net. "I’m just lucky that I got the puck on the two-on-one and I shot it towards the net."
Boston had been looking to get off to a quick start against Carolina - and that certainly happened, as the B's got on the board just 3:16 into the first. Though Anton Khudobin was called for delay-of-game after playing the puck out of the trapezoid, the mishap put Brad Marchand in a position to score the B's first shorthanded tally of the season.
Patrice Bergeron (who was 68-percent in the faceoff circle tonight) was strong on the forecheck in the corner behind Carolina netminder Cam Ward and sent the puck quickly to Zdeno Chara at the left point. Big Zee hit Marchand at the right faceoff circle, who roofed a beautiful one-timer that hit the top of the goal and immediately rocketed out.
Then it was the Captain himself who got his second goal of the season, off a wrister that beat Ward for the B's second power-play goal of the season and second special teams tally of the night.
"It’s nice to be rewarded for that," Chara said after the game sitting in his stall. "But our main priority is playing good defense and shutting the top lines down. If I can add on top of that some offense, it's good to help."
But after the strong 3-1 start, the Black & Gold saw turnovers in their own end wind up on the sticks of Jeff Skinner and Eric Staal - and in behind Khudobin - to have the game tied heading into the third.
"If anything, those two goals late in the second, we got caught standing still and the D's got caught moving the wrong way, and gave outnumbered situations," said Coach Julien. "I came in after the second period and said, 'Guys, you know the last time I looked, it was a 3-3 hockey game, so we can't hang our heads and then drag that into the third. We have to go back and win ourselves a 20-minute period.'"
"And our guys really did a good job of answering the call."
"We just kept pushing and it came right down to the end," added Horton on pulling out the win. "Twenty minutes for a win and that’s what happened."
The B's top line centered by David Krejci - matched up against Eric Staal for the night - answered the call, when they wheels around the offensive zone, creating several chances, before No. 46 cashed in on a great feed by Dougie Hamilton, who it was announced before the game will be remaining with the B's past the five-game mark and not sent to juniors.
"This year we’re ready to go, we know it’s a short season, it’s important to get points early in the season. We tried to get as many points as we can and we've gotten 9 out of 10, so that’s pretty good."
Khudobin Solid in First Start
Anton Khudobin started his second game in the spoked-B - and first this season - pulling out the win with solid positional play in between the pipes.
"Felt great at the start as always like that, first game of the season pretty much," said Khudobin following the game. "Tried to expect lots of shots from up high. Maybe they tried to test me - after that I felt good, I stopped a couple shots and the game went on."
Khudobin didn't have much of a chance on a Jeff Skinner snipe after a B's turnover - and the second goal came after a failed clear, and Alexander Semin fed Eric Staal cutting right to the front of the net - another tough one for Anton to stop. But the win will give the netminder confidence moving forward.
"It’s always good, it’s always makes your confidence go up. But, it’s still just one game and one win. It’s a long road ahead, you have to work on and just keep going."
Dougie Remains a B, Gets an A
B's defenseman Dougie Hamilton found out today that he will be remaining with the Bruins for the long-hall and will not be returned to the OHL's Niagara IceDogs after five games with Boston.
"I don’t know if I really feel relief, but just really overall excitement," Hamilton said postgame on the news. "It’s been my dream ever since I was a little kid to play in the NHL, so I think for me it’s a dream come true. I just want to keep on getting better and having fun."
As poised as ever, Hamilton helped set-up Krejci's eventual game-winner with a solid feed as the third period was winding down.
"Obviously a great play by Dougie. He’s got so much patience and is such a good player, sees the ice so well," said Horton."Found Dave on the side of the net and Dave’s not going to miss that. A big goal for us."
"He’s playing really, really well. Everybody’s been very pleased with his play," Chara said of the young D-man. "It’s going to be a great addition to our team."