-- So much for Boston's perfect record on its march through the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Sunday's thorough 3-0 loss to Carolina in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at TD Banknorth Garden ended Boston's unbeaten run to open the postseason at five games. It also evened their best-of-7 series with the Carolina Hurricanes
at one apiece.
"If we thought we were going through here 16-0, we’re kidding ourselves, and it’s a big test for us now," Boston defenseman Aaron Ward
said. "It's a little adversity. We didn't encounter it game-wise against Montreal, but we encountered it period to period. We got down 1-0 both games on the road. We’ll see how we respond."
Against Montreal, the Bruins responded with an emphatic sweep, tossing aside the rival Canadiens without working up much of a sweat. That can no longer happen in this series, not after Carolina challenged Boston at its own game and pierced the top-seeded team's aura of invincibility.
Boston had won five-straight games against Carolina, dating back to the regular season, and had outscored the Hurricanes 22-7 in the process -- including a dominating effort in Game 1, a 4-1 victory on Friday.
Sunday was a different story, and now Carolina is feeling confident again.
The Cardiac 'Canes escaped a one-game hole three times in a seven-game series against New Jersey in the first round, and now they have proven to themselves -- and the Bruins -- that they can compete on even footing with the highest-seeded team left in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I think (the win) is important for us because we did do some of the things that we talked about between games that we needed to do to win a game against Boston," Carolina coach Paul Maurice
said. "So that’s now self-reinforcing."
In Game 1, Carolina was making most of the mistakes. Sunday night, it was Boston that was being forced into errors. More glaringly, it was Boston that was making errors even when not under duress.
"Obviously they played us better in the neutral zone," Boston coach Claude Julien
said. "It was a lot harder to get to the net; they blocked a lot of shots. But, at the same time, I don’t think we did a great job ourselves. I didn’t find us very sharp in a lot of areas -- soft plays, poor decisions with the puck and turning it over. Those kind of things took (their) toll, but the bottom line: I thought they just wanted it more than we did tonight."
Now it's up to Boston to come up with answers, the Bruins' turn to do some soul-searching for the first time in these playoffs. Are they up to the task?
"Well, it’s adversity," defenseman Andrew Ference
said. "Playoffs are all about that. It’s about the teams that learn lessons the fastest and keep their emotions in check. It’s all those things. By this point in the season, everybody’s good at X’s and O’s and the physical stuff. It’s up in the head that makes the big difference now."
Carolina has now put Boston's mental makeup to the test. The Bruins have two days to figure out how to answer the challenge. Goalie Tim Thomas
, who made 23 saves Sunday night, says his team is up to the task.
"It’s our first loss in the playoffs, so now we get to practice that not-too-high, not-too- low part," Thomas said. "We’ve been practicing that not-too-high part; but now we’ve got to practice that not-too-low part."