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Recchi and Kessel give Bruins a 2-0 lead in the first

05.10.09 at 7:44 pm ET
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18:34: Two minute minor to Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason for holding the stick. First PP of the night for the Bruins.

Nothing on that first PP for Boston. Not a good start to this one just yet.

13:54: Interference call on Zdeno Chara that took place way behind the play with Boston cycling in the offensive zone. Not a good time for a whistle right there no matter what was going on.

12:40: Good kill by the Bruins leads to an interference penalty on Sergei Samsonov. Here’s a spot where the Black and Gold could start building some momentum.

11:35: David Krejci to Dennis Wideman on the one-timer. Just missed to the left.

The Bruins are outshooting the Canes by an 8-0 count, but haven’t had any real Blue Chip opportunities.

8:56: Now there’s a save. Great glove stop by Tim Thomas on an Eric Staal rocket from the left faceoff circle.

8:13: Savard trying to screen Ward on a Shane Hnidy shot, and then a good job at selling a Dennis Seidenberg cross check afterward. Not good enough for a call though.

6:50: Great dropback pass from Krejci to Wideman again at the right faceoff circle, but Cam Ward was able to deflect the shot. Krejci is playing pretty well tonight.

5:45: Milan Lucic just completely woke this crowd up with a thundering hit in the corner on Dennis Seidenberg. The crowd was oohing and aahing in anticipation and then exulted when Looch pounded Seidenberg into the boards. It sparked his teammates too, and resulted in a Seidenberg penalty with Phil Kessel and Marc Savard cyling behind the net.

If the Bruins score here, that Lucic hit will be the turning point in the game. An early one, but a clear one.

5:12: And it comes to be. Savard wins a faceoff. Wideman to Chara, big blast that Mark Recchi tips through Ward’s pads. That was big for this Bruins team.

4:27: Interference call on Steve Montador. The defenseman hit Tuomo Ruutu after the puck had already traveled into the offensive zone.

2:50: Two unbelievable saves, one right after another, Samsonov and Joni Pitkanen during the penalty kill. The save on Pitkanen’s rebound blast — with Thomas leaping toward the puck on pure recovery reflex — was easily his best of the night.

1:24: There’s been a Kessel sighting. First in a while. Great cross-ice pass from Savard to Kessel with Lucic hanging in front of the net. Kessel bangs it home and makes it a two-goal lead.

The Bruins have taken a 2-0 lead after one full period of Game 5 of the Stanley Cup semifinal series at the TD Banknorth Garden.

Recchi ready to play in Game 5 for Bruins

05.10.09 at 12:26 pm ET
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Bruins winger Mark Recchi, who missed Saturday practice after getting “banged up” against Carolina in Game 4, skated in Sunday morning pregame skate at the TD Banknorth Garden and is expected to play. Andrew Ference didn’t participate in the morning skate and is out for a pivotal, do-or-die Game 5 showdown with the Hurricanes.

Perhaps this is the game that B’s bench boss Claude Julien opts to scratch Blake Wheeler — a virtual non-entity for the series against the Hurricanes aside from his PK responsibilities – and put both Shawn Thornton and Byron Bitz in the group of 12 active forwards.

“I’ve got a decision to make tonight after warmups,” said B’s coach Claude Julien. “We’re going to have an extra forward. Who that will be? I really can’t tell you right now.”

–Interesting that Claude Julien is all of a sudden getting very vocal about a Carolina “trap” that they’re throwing at the Bruins to stifle their offensive surge — when it actually seemed like an aggressive forecheck combined with poor dump-ins have been more of Boston’s problem through the first four games of the series. Combine that with a pop-gun power play that’s been more bust than boom, and you have all of the ingredients for an offensive slowdown.

Quick decision-making and crisp passes out of the defensive breakouts appear to be the issue more than anything else, but Julien went in a different direction with the question. Perhaps it’s an attempt to protect a D-Man corps that hasn’t been very good in the best-of-seven series and exposed as something of a liability under heavy, constant pressure.

Julien is crediting Carolina coach Paul Maurice with throwing something at the B’s players that they weren’t necessarily expecting: a stifling four man trap from the red line in.

“(Spending time) in their end has been a big challenge for us,” said Julien. “They play four guys back. They just wait for us in the neutral zone, and it’s something a little surprising coming from (Paul Maurice) because I know he used to complain about that last year when he was in Toronto. About us killing with the trap.

“But that’s what they’ve done, and they’ve created a pretty tough situation for us as far as getting in (Carolina’s zone). We’ve got to find ways to get pucks in and play more in their end. They’ve got three guys waiting for us between the ride and blue line, and they’ve got a D back in deep that just retrieves the puck whenever we chip it in. Somehow we’ve got to manage to get pucks behind and also put them in areas where we can retrieve them.” 

–There was a tacit understanding among the players that a Game 5 win in Boston would not only rekindle Boston’s confidence, but it could put a good deal of pressure on the Hurricanes in a Game 6 scenario at the RBC Center. The Canes players will, no doubt, want to avoid a Game 7 in Boston at all costs, but all Bruins players had 100 percent focus on the task at hand Sunday night.

“For us it’s really about tonight’s game and then don’t look at anything else. It’s tonight,” said B’s center Patrice Bergeron. “We want to be practicing tomorrow, you know? That’s the approach we have. We can’t think about Game 6 before we think about Game 5. We’ve got to think about tonight’s game, and we’re going to be ready for that.

“We’re happy with the chance to have (home ice advantage) and play in front of our fans.

Recchi not present at Bruins practice this afternoon

05.09.09 at 1:42 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Greetings from the Ristuccia Arena practice ice where the Boston Bruins may be having their final on-ice run through of a mostly magical 2008-09 hockey season.

–It appears that veteran B’s forward Mark Recchi — along with Andrew Ference and Matt Hunwick — isn’t on the ice with his Bruins teammates for this go-round. Don’t remember seeing anything really violent that took place with the 41-year-old during the Game 4 disaster at the RBC Center, but he isn’t practicing with the team today. Blake Wheeler has taken his place alongside Patrice Bergeron and Chuck Kobasew, and Byron Bitz is skating with David Krejci and Michael Ryder.

UPDATE: B’s coach Claude Julien said after practice that Recchi was “banged up” in Friday night’s loss, but that the 41-year-old should be able to answer the bell for Sunday night’s do-or-die Game 5.

“We still have Ference that’s doubtful,” said Julien. “Recchi is banged up today, but I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t be back with us (Sunday) as we speak. Those are going to have to be some decisions that are made tomorrow.”   

–Julien believes that a lot of the problems have become mental with his B’s skaters. So many young players without deep playoff experience combined with a veteran corps with few Cup veterans have turned into the B’s into mere shadows of their former selves. Now is the time, according to Julien, for the team to simplify their games, conquer their frustration and anger and transform all of this puck angst back into Bruins hockey.

If they don’t, then the season end beckons in one of the next few hockey contests. 

“A lot of it has to be mental,” said Julien. “When you lost three games in a row the way we’ve played, and the way we’ve played in the past, mentally it takes its toll and mentally we have to get our heads around it. We have to go out and play the game that we’ve played all year.

“We need to look at tomorrow’s game as the only obstacle to overcome. It’s the only thing we should be thinking of, it’s the only thing we should be worried. We shouldn’t think of anything else but that, and that’s how you simplify things. Some of the reasons we’re in the situation we’re in right now is because we’re doing things that we haven’t done the whole year. I think some of the players mentioned that it’s the effort or the will to want to do it. We’ve got to get our heads around it play our game. That’s what is costing us.”

Bruins go down in flames by a 4-1 score in Game 4

05.08.09 at 9:31 pm ET
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RALEIGH — 18:53: Zdeno Chara in the box for hooking Erik Staal. Not a very strong penalty right there.

18:29: Good Thomas save with Staal flinging a puck at him from the right faceoff dot with Cole hanging around in front of the net.

17:08: Jussi Jokinen again for the Canes. Rod Brind’Amour picked up a loose puck behind the net and slid it through to Jokinen waiting in front. He loaded the gun and buried it past a diving Thomas.

15:57: Joe Corvo and Staal rushed up the ice on an odd man rush. Nice blocker save by Thomas on a Corvo blast from the left faceoff circle.

13:52: Marc Savard had a puck behind the Carolina net. Flipped the puck out front and there was nobody home. The Canes and Sergie Samsonov took advantage flipping the puck up to Cole behind the Boston D. Steve Montador tried to recover, but ended up taking a hooking penalty trying to break Cole up from behind. PP for the Hurricanes.

11:45: Give Chara credit. He’s making any Canes forwards play that come at Thomas and crash the net. He just drove Matt Cullen to the ice and kept shoving his glove into his face after he tried to come in and whack a puck loose underneath Thomas’ pads.

9:16: A couple of shifty moves by Krejci, who looks as if he’s finally getting his legs underneath him. He flipped a nifty saucer pass to Michael Ryder in the high slot, and Ryder blasted away. Right pad save by Ward on the shot.

6:29: Samsonov strikes again with a wicked backhander after Dennis Wideman slipped while trying to stay with the speedy Russian winger.

4:19: Goal. Eric Staal. His ninth of the playoffs. After getting shut down during the regular season, the 24-year-old is taking over this series against the Bruins.

The Canes took a 4-1 decision over the Bruins in Game 4 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, NC.

Savard PP score ties things up in the second period

05.08.09 at 8:39 pm ET
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RALEIGH — 17:51: Good veteran move by Sheriff Shane Hnidy, who sold a holding call on Tuomo Ruutu. Second PP for the Bruins on the evening.

17:23: Bruins tie it up on PP. Mark Recchi came in toward the net with the puck, Cam Ward poked it away right on to Marc Savard’s stick. Savard lifted a wrist shot from the side of the net, and Boston’s spell of PP futility is broken. That snaps the 0-for-17 Bruins power play drought with a big, big score.

12:55: Good shift by the Bergeron, Recchi and Kobasew line. Physical forechecking a little bit of tenacity kept the Canes hemmed into their zone, and Mark Stuart finished things off with a punishing hit on Tuomo Ruutu on the sideboards. It appears the Bruins are creeping closer to Bruins hockey after a forgettable first period.

12:22: Erik Cole just basically threw Aaron Ward into the crossbar with Ray Whitney holding the puck at the right faceoff circle. Ward has blocked a shot and now this. He’s taking a beating tonight, but still skating.

Typical play that’s hampering the Bruins right now. Rather than dump the puck in deep, Blake Wheeler crosses over the blue line and straight into two defenders and then loses posession of the puck. That isn’t simple, effective hockey, and it’s part of the reason I thought he might have been a healthy scratch tonight rather than Thornton.

7:24: Near score for the Bruins. Zdeno Chara wound up with a shot from inside the blue line that Micheal Ryder tipped in the slot. Blake Wheeler crashed down on the Carolina net as the shot was released, but Ward was able to squeeze the glove hand tight.

5:50: Holding penatly on Chuck Kobasew with a good thespian effort by the Canes on the call.

5:26: Dangerous play in front after Staal threw the puck at the net, and it landed between the skates of Cole camped in front. Cole couldn’t find it, however, and Thomas jumped on the puck.

2:11: Good knuckleball bid by Kessel that wobbled toward Ward and he managed to deflect. The Bruins have really started to settle down and control the action.

 Much, much better period from the Black and Gold.

The Canes and Bruins are tied at a 1-1 score after two full periods during Game 4 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, NC.

Staal gives the Hurricanes an early lead in first period

05.08.09 at 7:43 pm ET
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RALEIGH, NC — Dropping the puck in the first period:

18:17: Sergei Samsonov in the penalty box with a hook. The B’s are putting good pressure on in the early going.

17:09: Phil Kessel just hit the right post on a curl and drag move from the left sideboards during the PP.

16:43: David Krejci just took a penalty after dumping Jussi Jokinen following a token swat at a puck that Tim Thomas had covered up.

15:25: What a flurry of action. P.J. Axelsson poked a puck away from Joe Corvo during the power play and was denied on a strong glove by Cam Ward on the backhand.

15:06: The Canes comes right back on their PP, attack the net and Eric Staal beats Tim Thomas with a blocker-side wrist shot.

13:43: The Bruins need to calm things down. Joni Pitkanen just knifed through the entire Boston defense and leveled a shot that Thomas was able to absorb. The B’s started out well, but resorted to again tossing the puck up the boards as the Canes dialed up the pressure following their score.

12:36: Good pad save by Thomas on a Ray Whitney bid from the slot.

9:33: Zdeno Chara just hit another post for Boston when he blasted a shot from the left point that rang off the right post before bouncing back out to the sideboards.

It looks like there’s a lot of jawing going on down on the ice tonight. The Bruins are definitely trying to raise the emotional level. It’ll be interesting to see if it works.

8:06: Another Chara giveaway in his own end to Staal results in a Ray Whitney blast from the left faceoff circle. Thomas makes the save and holds for the faceoff.

6:35: A quick little give-and-go with Lucic and Kessel forces a save by Ward and a faceoff in Carolina’s end.

6:23: Erik Cole to Whitney for a one-timer that Thomas somehow got a save on, and then Thomas makes another miraculous save on a Whitney forehand for the slot 20 seconds later.

3:01: All hell just broke lose on the Canes and Bruins over by the Boston bench. It appeared that Milan Lucic and Dennis Seidenberg tangled over by the Boston bench, and it quickly turned into a donnybrook with Marc Savard and Eric Cole jumping into a team-wide brawl. Savard and Lucic are in the bin for Boston while Cole and Seidenberg are in for roughing as well.

1:38: Great glove save by Thomas on a bid from Cullen at the right faceoff circle off a feed by Pitkanen. Thomas has been solid in this first 20 minutes.

Canes outshot the Bruins 12-4 for the period, and the score would be a lot worse without Tim Thomas standing on his Vezina head over the first 20 minutes.

The Canes have taken a 1-0 lead after one full period of play during Game 4 at the RBC Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Game pregame notes from North Carolina

05.08.09 at 7:39 pm ET
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RALEIGH, NC — A few quick pregame notes:

Shawn Thornton is a healthy scratch for the Boston Bruins, and Byron Bitz is in on the fourth line tonight. Interesting move by coach Claude Julien, as there might have been a different option or two that could have been chosen.

–NC State head coach Sidney Lowe was the guest siren cranker for the Hurricanes prior to the game starting. The NASCAR crowd looks fired up and ready to go on the Friday night at the old ice rink — this should be an interesting one.

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