Zdeno Chara of the Bruins celebrates a goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during Game 5. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Let’s call it a Mother’s Day Massacre. Too much? OK, then how about total domination?
That’s really the only way to describe Boston’s Game 5 victory over Carolina. From beginning to end, the Bruins were the better team on the ice Sunday night.
Even during the first five minutes, when the Boston skaters were squeezing their sticks, showing the nerves of facing elimination while making sloppy passes and taking penalties, Bruins all-world goaltender Tim Thomas stymied the Hurricanes’ best chances and the only really dangerous ones they had all game.
Boston, attempting to come back from a 3-1 series deficit for the first time in franchise history (the B’s are 0-21 in that category), won just about every important battle all night. (The only one they didn’t win ended with 17 minutes in penalties for Carolina’s Scott Walker, when he one-punched a defenseless Aaron Ward with about three minutes to play.)
Boston displayed the type of team-wide aggressiveness and skill that took it to No. 2 overall and No. 1 in the East this season. The Bruins were aggressive physically, on the puck, on the rush, defensively and crashed the crease for 55 minutes.
The nerves they displayed to open the game were settled by a huge Milan Lucic hit on the forecheck against Dennis Seidenberg, which opened the flood gates and cranked up the crowd.
By the end of the first period it was 2-0 Boston and they didn’t let up, with Phil Kessel’s second goal of the game about five minutes into the second period encapsulating how the Bruins played all night.
Zdeno Chara — all 6-foot-9 of him — hammered Carolina star Eric Staal when the 24-year-old got too cute trying to deke through the Boston zone on a rush; then Chara hammered Staal again when the youngster went looking for payback behind the Boston goal. Chara then skated up ice, created a Carolina turnover at the red line by being physical on his man, jumped into the play, went straight to the Hurricanes crease and created traffic while Marc Savard set-up Kessel, who rifled the puck home.
At 3-0, the game looked to be over. And, in truth, it was. But Boston refused to let up, looking to send a message for Game 6 in Raleigh Tuesday night. The physical play continued. Three fights broke out — if you can call the Walker-Ward tussle a fight — and Bruins such as Milan Lucic, Chuck Kobasew, Shawn Thornton, Chara and others kept throwing their weight around while the skill guys — Marc Savard, Kessel, David Krejci, etc. — buzzed the Canes’ zone.
After the first five minutes, it just never looked like the Canes were never going to score. It was as if they threw all they had at Thomas and the Bruins and, once thwarted, were done.
Things will be different come Tuesday. The Bruins will, once again, be facing elimination — this time in the not-so-friendly confines of the RBC Center.
There will be some side plots to watch out for as well: retribution for Walker’s punch on Ward, retribution for a Jussi Jokinen slash to the ankle of Chara at the end of the second period — which put a scare into every Bruins fan when the big man crumpled to the ice and limped off — and the Thornton-Tim Conboy battle that led to Conboy’s first fight of the night and some post-scrap jawing that continued in the penalty box.
Most importantly, both teams will come out flying as they attempt to get the crowd into or out of the game.
But if Boston plays anywhere near as well as it did Sunday, expect a Game 7 back at the TD Banknorth Garden Thursday. As an impartial hockey fan, I can only hope that’s the case.
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