-- The Carolina Hurricanes
knew they might lose Game 5, but certainly didn't expect the manner in which it was lost Sunday night.
Forget about the 4-0 score in Boston's favor, it was everything else about the game that mattered. Entering the game, Boston was lifeless after three-straight losses. Sixty minutes later, after physically and mentally dominating the Hurricanes before an appreciative TD Banknorth Garden crowd, the Bruins feel they are back in the series.
Yes, Boston is still down three games to two in this best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal, but it now has a blueprint on how to dominate the Hurricanes. Boston used its physical superiority, combined with a more effective forecheck and a more stable transition game to fluster the visitors from the first shift.
"I just think that, as a whole, they were better than we were tonight," said Carolina forward Eric Staal
, who was a minus-2. "We didn’t get to our game as much as we did before. They were getting their chances and their breaks and they capitalized. We need to regroup, refresh, and look forward to Tuesday."
Carolina coach Paul Maurice
said his team's inability -- or unwillingness -- to use its speed was the root of all Sunday's problems.
"We weren’t very quick, which is a really big part of our game, and that affects everything else that we do." Maurice said. "We played on the puck a little too long and didn’t drive our feet the way we need to. There’s not much more, it’s the driving force in our game."
Boston capitalized on that indecision, getting in hard on the forecheck and punishing Carolina's defenders, often forcing turnovers that were converted into scoring chances. Boston out-hit Carolina, 25-15, and outshot the Hurricanes, 40-19.
"They are the first seed for a reason," Carolina goalie Cam Ward
said. "They are a very good team and they played well tonight and we didn’t. They needed to respond and they did.
"I think we got sucked into their style of game. We lost focus a little bit and didn’t focus on what we needed to do."
The Hurricanes lost a lot of focus in the third period, routinely marching to the penalty box. The undisciplined play came to a head when Scott Walker
joined a scrum between Boston defenseman Aaron Ward
and Carolina forward Matt Cullen
and dropped the unsuspecting Ward with one punch.
Boston coach Claude Julien
said there is a chance that Ward suffered a broken orbital bone from the punch.
Regardless of the severity of the injury, Walker faces a possible suspension for receiving an instigator penalty in the last five minutes of a game under Rule 47.22 in the NHL rulebook.
Walker was handed the instigator penalty, a fighting major, and a 10-minute misconduct for his part in the fracas. Boston earned another power play, one of nine granted to the home team in the game.
The loss of discipline certainly has to displease Maurice, but he has become a master at having his team put aside ugly games. Three times in its first-round series against New Jersey, Carolina fell into a one-game hole before winning the final two games to escape. Carolina also lost Game 1 against Boston by an unflattering 4-1 score, but responded with three-straight wins.
Now he must build his team up once again. Maurice began that process Sunday night.
"It’s part of the learning process of the playoffs," Maurice said. "This game wasn’t a lot different from the last game, in reverse; almost two-to-one in shots, 4-1, 4-0. One team got rolling, the other didn’t. They did a good job coming back and being ready to play as we expected, and we’re going to have the same challenge ahead of us.
"We had to win our last Game 6 or else, and we had to win our last Game 7 or else. We’ve been in this situation."