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Snapping slump, Bruins feel better about power play

by Matt Kalman

BOSTON -- The Boston Bruins power play failed to convert on its first two chances and part of a third in the first period of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday at TD Garden.

During carryover time early in the second period, Boston forward Reilly Smith thought he'd broken the Bruins' 0-for-10 slump, which dated to the previous four games in the series, two or three times.

With 49 seconds elapsed in the period, Smith was robbed by Canadiens goaltender Carey Price on a shot from 10 feet. It looked like the power play would stay in the doldrums.

But the Bruins didn't get discouraged, and when defenseman Dougie Hamilton's slap shot from the blue line glanced off Smith's left skate as the right wing was driving to the net, the puck eluded Price at 1:04 to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead.

Thirty-two seconds later, Boston forward Jarome Iginla scored another power-play goal and the Bruins were on their way to a 4-2 victory that put them up 3-2 in the best-of-7 series. Game 6 is Monday at Bell Centre (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

The Bruins' power play ranked third in the NHL in the regular season with a 21.7 percent success rate and in the first round dominated the Detroit Red Wings penalty kill, going 6-for-16 in a five-game series. Those experiences helped the Bruins' man-advantage players keep faith that the power play would turn their way soon.

"You know you've got to change up little aspects of it. We kind of went back to some of the systems we had the start of the year that gave us success," Smith said Sunday while a handful of his teammates took part in an optional practice at TD Garden. "And then I think that helped. You know we had such success in the first series that it seemed like everything was going. So you know sooner or later you're going to hit a cold streak. And that's what happened. But it was nice to be able to jump back on the board and help the team out for the win."

For a long time leading up to this season, the power play was the Bruins' Achilles heel. They ranked 26th in 2012-13 and failed to crack the top half of the League the prior two seasons. Even when they won the Stanley Cup in 2011, they were 10-for-88 (11.8 percent) in the playoffs.

That year in the first round against Montreal, Boston became the first team to win a best-of-7 series without scoring on the power play (0-for-21). It was part of a three-series, 14-game, 38-power-play drought against the Canadiens in the playoffs that ended Saturday.

The Bruins were encouraged by their 15 shots on net during their first eight power plays in the first four games of this series, and by how they set up on their second opportunity in the first period of Game 5.

"I don't think we really felt like we were struggling too much," Hamilton said. "I think it's tougher in games when you're getting them in the second period and one or two a game, so you really don't get a rhythm. But they came hard at us [Saturday]. And the first one, I guess, was a little bit of a struggle and we were lucky enough to set up on the second one and get a goal [on the third], and then right off the faceoff to get another one. So it was just a real momentum swing."

The power play was boosted by an overhaul of the personnel from the past three seasons. There are mainstays from those teams, but Hamilton, Smith, Iginla and defenseman Torey Krug have given the Bruins a chance to throw multiple weapons and looks at opponents.

In coach Claude Julien's mind, the Bruins needed to roll up their sleeves and take a more blue-collar approach in order to prevent the power-play slump from snowballing.

"I think the biggest thing that I noticed on our power play was we were getting outworked by their PK in battles," Julien said. "And decision-making with the puck was soft. So we kind of talked about that after the first period, we just had to get a little bit harder and smarter and more determined. And we had to outwork their penalty kill. And you know we came out in the second period and those two goals kind of redefined our power play."

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