The Boston Bruins are heading home with smiles on their faces and a three-point lead in the race for the last playoff position in the East in their pockets.
The Bruins got goals from five players and 30 saves by Tuukka Rask for a 5-2 victory at Carolina on Tuesday night, completing a seven-game road trip with a 3-3-1 record.
Boston had gone 1-3-1 after opening the trip with a win on Long Island, reducing their lead over the ninth-place New York Rangers to one point. The Bruins' players got together before the game and talked about how important it was to close out the road swing with a victory and to create momentum for the home stretch.
Whatever was said worked wonders.
"We needed a huge win tonight, I think we all knew that," said Mark Recchi, one of four Bruins with a goal and an assist. "We stayed with it; we played the right way. We were a desperate hockey club tonight. We do that for 13 more games, we'll control our own destiny and get in the playoffs."
Recchi's goal, 45 seconds into the third period, turned out to be the game-winner. He skated in 2-on-1, opted to shoot and fired a wrister off the glove of Manny Legace and into the net for a 3-1 lead. The goal, the 560th of Recchi's career, tied him with Guy Lafleur for 22nd on the NHL's all-time list.
"That third goal was huge for us," Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the win, combined with the Rangers' 3-1 home loss to Montreal, moved the Bruins three points ahead of New York for the last playoff spot in the East.
Carolina got two goals from Erik Cole but lost at home for the second game in a row and dropped 10 points behind the Bruins.
"It's pretty tough right now for sure," Cole said. "It feels as bad as it did early in the year right now, and it's a feeling we haven't had in this room for quite a while. And you tack on Saturday's loss (4-0 to Phoenix) to this one and it makes it that much worse.
"There were just a lot of uncharacteristic things we haven't been doing the last several games," Cole said. "We were giving up odd-man rushes and we didn't play structured."
Cole's second goal score, 1:53 into the third period, made it 3-2. The Hurricanes then peppered Rask, but the rookie goaltender kept Carolina off the board for the rest of the night.
"Tuukka was good for us again tonight," Julien said. "He made some timely saves and had some tough shots, a lot of traffic in front of him, and he stood tall."
Michael Ryder and David Krejci added insurance goals for the Bruins, who outshot the Hurricanes 37-32.
"I thought we handled the third period really, really well," captain Zdeno Chara said. "We never changed our system. Every line really contributed in some way."
Boston took a 1-0 lead 37 seconds into the game when Patrice Bergeron redirected Dennis Seidenberg's shot into the net. Rookie Johnny Boychuk made it 2-0 at 8:27 of the second period.
Cole's goals, his first since scoring a pair on Dec. 5, twice cut the deficit to one goal, but the Hurricanes couldn't get even.
"Rask had some pretty good saves on the chances that we did get," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "Just that puck movement from the back end to the forwards is such a critical piece against a hard forechecking team."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report