Carolina Hurricanes center Matt Cullen, left, celebrates his second-period goal with teammate Chad LaRose, right, after beating Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas during Game 2 of an NHL hockey Eastern Conference semifinal series Sunday, May 3, 2009, in Boston. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Charles Krupa
BOSTON - The "desperate" Boston Bruins kept firing shots at Cam Ward. The "rock" of the Carolina Hurricanes kept stopping them.
The playoff MVP in Carolina's 2006 Stanley Cup victory, Ward turned aside 36 shots for his second shutout in his last four playoff games and the Hurricanes won 3-0 Sunday night for a split of the first two games.
"He's our rock," Eric Staal said. "He needs to play well every night for us to have a shot and he did."
It was a description that was confirmed to coach Paul Maurice - very loudly - on a shot in the third period that Ward knocked away with his pad.
"I didn't expect to hear that sound," Maurice said. "It came off that pad hard, so that's a glimpse of how good he is."
Joe Corvo, Matt Cullen and Staal, on an empty-net goal with 28 seconds left, scored for the Hurricanes, who will be home for Games 3 and 4 Wednesday and Friday nights.
They also split their first two games of the first round at New Jersey, then lost the next game at home in overtime to the Devils.
"We're looking to learn our lessons because we felt this good going back to Game 3 with New Jersey," Maurice said. "(The Bruins) are going to come in, in some ways without the pressure of playing at home and being creative."
There was plenty of pressure when they began the third period trailing 2-0.
"We played really good in the third period," Boston captain Zdeno Chara. "We were really desperate to score a goal."
He played a part in putting the Bruins in that predicament.
The Bruins got the man advantage with 6:24 gone in the second period when Joni Pitkanen was sent off for elbowing. Chara, a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the NHL's best defenceman, passed the puck from the left point toward Dennis Wideman at the right point, but Chad LaRose stepped between them and stole it.
He raced down the left side, skated behind the net and fed the puck out front to Cullen, who snapped a one-timer past Thomas.
The Bruins were the last unbeaten team in the playoffs after Detroit lost to Anaheim 4-3 in triple overtime Sunday. Boston goalie Tim Thomas' winning streak ended at 11 games, including the last six of the regular season.
"It's our first loss in the playoffs," Thomas said. "We've been practising the not-too-high part, but now we get to practice the not-too-low part."
Ward preserved his shutout with 6:37 left when Michael Ryder pounced on a loose puck in front of the net. Ward flashed his left pad out to stop the shot then made a save after Wideman got the rebound.
"I felt confident," Ward said. "I felt like I was seeing (the puck) really well and I was containing the rebounds."
The Hurricanes nearly made it 3-0 with less than three seconds left in the second period when LaRose's shot from the inside edge of the left circle beat Thomas to the far side. The puck ricocheted from the post along the goal-line. An official signalled that it hadn't crossed the goal-line, a call that stood after a long video review.
Ward's first playoff shutout of the year came in a 4-0 win in Game 6 against New Jersey.
The Hurricanes took a 1-0 lead at 2:30 of the second period on Corvo's rising slapshot from five feet above the left circle that went by Thomas' left arm.
The win was Carolina's first of the season against Boston, which went 4-0 in the regular season, then won Friday night's opener 4-1.
Notes: Rob Brind'Amour played in his 150th post-season game and 63rd with Carolina, passing the franchise record set by Ron Francis, now the team's associate head coach. ... The Bruins' 2-0 deficit after the second period marked the first time they'd trailed after a period in this year's playoffs.
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