What a difference a couple of days can make.
The Bruins, in a rare Saturday matinee at home, came out with an aggressive first period. They never slowed down, they never let Calgary into the game, and when it was over, the Bruins walked down the runway with a 5-0 win, one of their most complete victories of the season.
The Bruins did just about everything right. They owned the physical game, with an always-improving Milan Lucic leading the way with four hits. They created traffic in front of the Calgary net, eventually forcing all-world goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff to hit the showers early. They were unstoppable on special teams, scoring three power-play goals and killing off four penalties (including a five-minute major in the third period). They prevented the Flames from generating too many chances, with the Bruins combining for 14 blocked shots and Tim Thomas stopping all 31 shots he faced.
And just as important as what was taking place on the ice, the fans in the Bruins' home building were energized — a vastly different atmosphere than the chorus of boos that has rained down several times in Boston this month.
After the game, there was plenty of credit to go around, though the success of the power play seemed to stand out in the players' minds.
"They did an excellent job," Thomas said of the power play unit. "The power play won the game for us. We did other stuff to finish off the win, but most important was getting those goals on the power play."
Those goals were the first three that the Bruins put on the board. The first came just over 14 minutes into the game, when Dennis Seidenberg teed one up from the point with Marco Sturm screening Kiprusoff. The puck found the net, and the B's had broken an eight-game, 0-for-22 power-play drought.
Yet the B's weren't done. David Krejci fired a slapper from the top of the faceoff circle just 1:29 into the second period on the man advantage, and less than five minutes later, Zdeno Chara wristed a shot from the slot past Kiprusoff, again on the man advantage.
"Our power play was really clicking tonight," Chara said after logging a game-high 24:44 of ice time. "We were able to make the plays. We were not looking for some fancy plays — we were just keeping it simple, and we scored some huge goals."
Head coach Claude Julien's explanation for the power-play goals was far from scientific, as he said it was simply a matter of being "better."
"We made better play selections, we moved the puck a lot better tape to tape, and then when we had an opportunity to shoot, we shot the puck and we had some net-front presence," Julien said. "So all those kind of things that we were struggling at, we were better."
Though the power play will steal the headlines, the defensive effort might have been the real star of the show, as the B's prevented the Flames from even sniffing the lead.
"They got the first one, and we got a little bit down," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla, adding that the B's simply made the second and third efforts and the Flames did not.
Calgary head coach Brent Sutter said that his players' sense of urgency lessened as the game went on, though he couldn't explain why.
"You are asking the wrong guy," he said. "Why don't you ask [the players] that? I don't know. … It is a disappointing loss. I don't know what to say anymore."
Thomas — making his first start since a poor performance in New Jersey on March 15 — picked up his fifth shutout of the year, giving confidence both to himself and his teammates.
"I can tell you right now that in the back of [the players'] minds, they wanted to make sure Timmy got the shutout," Julien said. "He's been a pretty good soldier for us, having to watch a lot of these games lately. For him to come out and play the way he did … I think the guys really wanted to help him out."
By the time the Flames went on a five-minute power play midway through the third, they trailed 5-0 and had no hope to make a comeback.
"I'm not sure how many shots they had," Thomas said of the five-minute short-handed stretch, "but it wasn't a lot. We did a really good job. Five minutes is a hard one to kill off in a row without at least taking some damage. We didn't want to give them any momentum … so it was important for us to kill that penalty."
Of course, no matter how thorough a win may be, it can only be worth two points. Fortunately for the Bruins, the Flyers also lost on Saturday, putting the two teams in a tie for seventh place, with the Bruins still holding a game in hand.
The road to the playoffs won't get any easier, and Saturday's convincing win wasn't enough to solve all the problems that the Bruins may have. Still, in a season when the puck all too often seemed to bounce the wrong way, it should be enough to keep playoff hopes alive in Boston.
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