Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jaroslav Spacek (8) clears Boston Bruins center Chris Kelly (23) away from the crease during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Boston, Thursday Feb. 2, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
BOSTON - Sweeping the defending Stanley Cup champions is nice, but the Carolina Hurricanes would trade all four wins for a better spot in the standings.
Cam Ward made 47 saves—22 in the first period and 20 in the third—Brandon Sutter had a goal and an assist, and the Hurricanes finished their first season sweep of the Bruins with a 3-0 victory on Thursday night.
"It feels good to beat them four times, but I would rather be first in the conference and lose to the last-place team four times," said captain Eric Staal, who had a goal in this win.
Not only isn't Carolina on top of the Eastern Conference, the Hurricanes are stuck at the bottom. They are 15-25-9 against the rest of the NHL, but outscored Boston 14-5 in the season sweep.
This franchise had never pulled that off, even back when it was the Hartford Whalers.
"We have to play every team like they are the Bruins," Ward said. "It is a real compliment to our team to beat the champs four times."
Staal scored in the first period, Tuomo Ruutu converted Sutter's rebound in the second, and Sutter added a goal 3:13 into the third.
Ward, 11-11-2 against the Bruins, posted his third shutout of the season and 19th of his NHL career—including three over Boston.
Despite the high number of shots, the Bruins, just 4-4-1 in their last nine games after winning 25 of the previous 30, had few quality scoring chances.
They were booed by the home crowd.
"We had a lot of shots, but we let him see the puck pretty well and then didn't go to the net too hard at times and let him get those easy shots," said Tuukka Rask, who played well in making 28 saves, but lost his third straight start.
"It was probably the best game we have played all year," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said. "Guys get excited to play the Stanley Cup champs. Seems to bring out the best in our game."
Rask did all he could to keep the Bruins in it, but they were blanked for the third time this season—all at home. Boston lost in regulation for the third time in 20 home games and second in the past 10.
"We are not that great of a team when we're just going out there and going through the motions," said Bruins coach Claude Julien, whose team played a poor second period against Ottawa on Tuesday before rebounding in the third. "Right now we're playing more like a team that should be at the bottom of the standings then at the top of the standings, and that's the reality of it."
Ruutu hit defenceman Johnny Boychuk in the corner to start the play that resulted in Staal's goal. As Boychuk was trying to get up—he had trouble breathing after his stick caught in the boards—Jiri Tlusty got the puck to Staal for a one-timer at 11:51 of the first. Carolina had the lead despite the Bruins matching their season high for shots in a period.
Staal, who has struggled this season, has 18 points in 15 games.
Boychuk missed the rest of the period but was back for the second.
It was the second time this season the Bruins had 22 shots in a period, and they allowed only eight for Carolina, but the Hurricanes had good chances and the only goal.
The Hurricanes outshot the Bruins 14-5 in the second period and cashed in on a mix-up between defencemen Andrew Ference and Adam McQuaid to make it 2-0. Sutter stole the puck from Ference and was stopped by Rask. Ruutu made a nifty move past McQuaid after picking up the rebound and swept in his 16th goal of the season on the backhand.
NOTES: Bruins RW Nathan Horton, who sat out the last four games of the Stanley Cup finals because of a concussion, missed his third straight game because of another concussion following a hit from Philadelphia's Tom Sestito on Jan. 22. "He's still where he was a few days ago, like I said feeling better but not well enough to get to that stage of working out," Julien said. ... McQuaid was in the lineup despite being questionable because of a lower body injury. Ference returned after serving a three-game NHL suspension. ... Carolina D Jaroslav Spacek was struck by a slap shot by Boychuk midway through the second period, but wasn't seriously injured. ... The Hurricanes started a stretch of five of seven on the road.