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Bruins blank 'Canes, cut series deficit to 3-2 @NHLdotcom

Shawn P. Roarke | Managing Editor

-- The Boston Bruins have made their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Carolina Hurricanes a fight to the finish by showing an unprecedented amount of fight in Sunday's Game 5.

The Bruins played their most physical game of the series, dominating Carolina for long stretches Sunday night at the TD Banknorth Garden and forging an elimination-denying 4-0 victory on the back of their effort.

Phil Kessel scored a pair of goals off pretty Marc Savard passes, while Mark Recchi and Milan Lucic added single tallies to key the offense. Goalie Tim Thomas, meanwhile, was the beneficiary of a far stouter defense, asked to make just 19 saves to forge his first career playoff shutout.

But the story Sunday night was the way Boston physically took it to the 'Canes from the first shift.

"All year, when we have been physical, that's when we have been at our best," Lucic said. "We wanted to get the crowd into it. We did a good job of getting the pucks deep and that allowed us to be physical."

After being too passive in the first five games of the series -- including three-straight losses -- Boston did not pass up the opportunity to let their physical play dictate the pace and tone of the game Sunday night.

The result was a dominating victory that had the Garden rocking and put the Hurricanes back on their heels, taking away a good portion of the confidence they built up in taking three straight from the East's top seed.

Carolina will have precious little time to recover, as Game 6 is Tuesday night in Raleigh. If Boston can fight its way out of another elimination scenario, it would host Game 7 on Thursday night.

Lucic was a ringleader in the effort to punish the Hurricanes in their own end, getting in hard on the forecheck and using big hits to force Carolina into mistakes with the puck. His hit on Carolina defenseman Dennis Seidenberg in the right corner set in motion the play that led to the first goal -- a power-play tally by Recchi, who deflected a point shot from Zdeno Chara.

"It was a D-to-D pass and I just wanted to get up to him and maybe cause a turnover and finish my check," Lucic said. "The fans got into it and we responded after that."

Lucic plastered Seidenberg, causing a turnover, and then almost singlehandedly turned that into a scoring chance. A few seconds later, the Hurricanes were still scrambling and Seidenberg took a slashing penalty against Savard. 

Boston won the ensuing faceoff and Recchi tipped Chara's point shot past Cam Ward, who faced 40 shots on the night, to start the rout.

"I think everyone enjoys hearing the whole crowd go 'Looch' every time he hits somebody," said Shawn Thornton, another rugged Bruins forward. "The crowd got into it, that's for sure, and the guys feed off it."

Boston coach Claude Julien certainly appreciated the tone set by Lucic. He believes it was key in getting Boston going in a must-win game.

"We needed to come in with a little more energy and be more committed to playing the way we've talked about our team has played all year," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "We saw signs of that and Lucic being the physical player that he is certainly got the crowd behind us, and there's no doubt that the rest of the team fed off it."

Boston certainly fed off Lucic's energy Sunday night, out-hitting Carolina 25-15 in the game and forcing Carolina to take some undisciplined penalties late, highlighted by the instigator call Scott Walker took after punching an unprepared Aaron Ward during a scrum in front of Thomas. Ward was tangled with Carolina's Matt Cullen when Walker joined the fray and dropped Ward with one punch.

Walker took 17 minutes in penalties, but Ward may have a broken orbital bone, according to Julien. He said that was the initial word from the training staff, but the diagnosis won't be confirmed until early Monday morning.

For Carolina's Eric Staal, the night was just about Boston being better. Staal, so dominant in the past three games, was held without a point in Game 5, going a minus-2.

"We didn't play well and they had a good game," Staal said. "They had a better game than we did. It wasn't our best. We need to regroup and get ready for Game 6. It's one game in the playoffs. We get to go back in front of our fans and hopefully get the job done in six."

Early in the second period, Eric Staal took a run at Zdeno Chara behind the Boston net, but the 6-foot-4, 210 pound forward just bounced off Chara, who disentangled himself from Staal's legs and took off up the ice to join the rush. Chara drove all the way to the crease and was occupying space and causing confusion when Phil Kessel took the pass from Savard and ripped home his second goal of the night to make it 3-0.

Milan Lucic set the tone for what kind of night it was going to be on his first shift, hitting Tim Gleason behind the Carolina net and then trying to goad the Carolina defensemen into a fight. Later in the period, Lucic delivered a thundering check on defenseman Dennis Seidenberg while in on the forecheck. Then, on his final shift of the first, he was parked in front of the net as Phil Kessel ripped home his first goal to give Boston a 2-0 lead.

Boston captain Zdeno Chara was injured on his last shift of the second period and left lying on the ice, clutching at his left knee. But he returned for the third period to take a regular shift. When he stepped on the ice after the first whistle in the third, TD Banknorth Garden went bonkers.

After going without a fighting major in the first four games, the teams combined for three fighting majors, two by the Hurricanes. In another altercation, Carolina's Tim Conboy and Boston's Shawn Thornton each received double minors for roughing. Scott Walker of the Hurricanes was assessed 17 minutes worth of penalties with 2:47 left in the game when he dropped an unsuspecting Aaron Ward with one punch.

Boston got a goal on the power play when Marc Recchi opened the scoring. It is Boston's sixth power-play goal of the postseason in 33 attempts, but five of those have come on home ice. Boston had the second-best home power-play conversion rate during the regular season.

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