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Saturday, November 27, 2010
Penalty kill hurts Bruins

By Joe McDonald

BOSTON  To win games, a team has to kill penalties. To win games, a team has a better chance if it scores first.

The Boston Bruins were unable to accomplish both and that led to a 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes Friday afternoon at TD Garden. The Hurricanes scored three power-play goals with Jeff Skinner, Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen each pumping home a PP tally.

The Bruins are 0-6-1 this season when they've allowed the first goal of the game.

"It's getting old," said Bruins forward Milan Lucic of playing from behind. "We've got to figure out how to score that first goal. It's great that we've been able to overcome some deficits and get ourselves back in the game, but eventually it's going to catch up with us. We've got to take that upon ourselves as players to get ready and have a good start. That's basically it."

Well sometimes, when you don't win, you have to give credit to the opposing goaltender, too. The Bruins threw 37 shots at the Hurricanes' Cam Ward and he turned away all of them en route to his first shutout of the season.

"We had a lot of chances," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "It's unfortunate that we didn't score. ... He deserves a lot of credit. He was good, but at the same time you've got to take responsibility. You've got to find ways to score goals."

As far as the penalty kill is concerned, Boston has been solid all season. Until Friday, the Bruins were ranked No. 1 overall in the league in that category, and had only allowed seven power-play goals. Now, they've only allowed a total of 10 in 77 chances for the opposition.

"You're penalty kill is supposed to bail you out," Julien said. "They've done a pretty a pretty good job throughout the year, but tonight, when you give them three goals on three attempts, that's unacceptable."

Boston was left scratching its head with its inability to shut down the Hurricanes.

"It's tough to put a finger on it," said Bruins forward Brad Marchand. "Our PK has been one of our strong points, and it's always frustrating when you give up three power play goals in the game. We didn't do our job."

Both Julien and goalie Tim Thomas made it a point to explain that the Hurricanes received a couple of good bounces on two of the three power-play goals. The Bruins' penalty killers take a lot of pride in their roles, but bounces or not, they weren't happy with the results.

"You can say they got a bounce, but at the end of the day we didn't do our jobs," Marchand said. "We all love playing on the PK, and love killing penalties. There are going to be days where you do better than others, but there's never a time when you accept giving up three power-play goals."

Boston's game plan on the penalty kill is a simple and successful one the majority of the time. The Bruins attempt to stifle an opponent's speed on the breakout, and they take away passing lanes in their own zone, while staying compact in the box, trying to keep the play to the perimeter.

Carolina made sure to capitalize on its chances and it proved crucial.

"We obviously scored those three goals on the power play, but overall I thought it was about playing a complete game," said Ruutu, who scored a goal and added an assist. "We had great penalty killing as well. Our goalie played unbelievable. We were really patient. You have to be patient against them."

Ruutu was right when he said Carolina's penalty-killing unit was spot-on.

Boston went 0-for-4 on the power play, and has scored only twice in its last 15 opportunities on the man-advantage. Even though the Bruins couldn't light the lamp, they were pleased with the adjustments they made on the PP late in the game.

Even though it's important to finish strong, overall the Bruins need to do a better job from the opening puck drop. They played well in the first period, but couldn't capitalize on their chances, while the Hurricanes did. In the end, Carolina won.

"I don't think we should be frustrated," said Thomas, who drops his record to 11-2-1. "I think we should be disappointed. We didn't do what it took to get the win. You can say, 'Oh, Cam Ward played good,' but it wasn't like we were getting Grade-A chances all the time, and it was a little bit of a lack of emotion."

Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for