For the second time in exactly two weeks, the Bruins left Raleigh 3-2 winners on the heels of a strong performance from their All-Star goaltender. With 31 saves on Tuesday, Tim Thomas didn’t quite have the workload of his 38-stop performance on Jan. 18, but he made several stellar ones late in the third period with the Canes attempting to rally from a two-goal deficit.
“Their goalie made some big saves,” said Hurricanes forward Tuomo Ruutu. “I think we played pretty well, but it’s tough to lose after a game like that.”
The Canes entered the third period in a 1-1 tie, but had to rally when the visitors’ Nathan Horton and Patrice Bergeron broke the game open with goals 1:12 apart in the first five minutes. A Joe Corvo power play goal cut the deficit to one goal with plenty of time left, and that’s when Thomas took over.
His best and most acrobatic save came with around three minutes remaining when an Erik Cole shot rebounded to Brandon Sutter on the left side. Sutter attempted a spinning backhand on the loose puck that seemed destined bring the house down, but a sprawling Thomas shut the door and then got some help from his defensemen, who blocked an Eric Staal follow-up attempt.
“You can’t figure out how it gets done, but it’s certainly been getting done all year long,” said Hurricanes coach Paul Maurice of Thomas, who entered the game with a league-leading 1.81 goals-against average and .945 save percentage despite his unorthodox style. “He’s no fluke. The save that he makes on Sutter he’s doing a spin-o-rama in the air. You can’t describe it, but you certainly appreciate how good he’s been.”
“It looks like a good opportunity because a lot of times you feel like he’s out of position but he’s not,” said Sergei Samsonov, who recorded 2 assists. “I think that’s deceiving.”
Thomas also came up big by stopping a point-blank Patrick Dwyer chance that came as the result of a nice centering feed from Staal, and even got a bit lucky when Jiri Tlusty’s attempt to convert a two-on-one with Sutter rang off the post to his right.
With the way the Bruins started the third period, one may not have guessed that Thomas would need to be that sharp. The teams were on even terms after Daniel Paille and Jamie McBain traded goals in the second period, but Boston seemed to be taking command after their two quick strikes.
“It’s hard to come back down two goals in the third, especially against a team like Boston,” said Samsonov. “They don’t give you a lot to begin with, and being down by two in the third you really have to do something special.”
That’s nearly what happened, as Corvo gave his team and the RBC Center crowd of 18,126 some life when he dragged the puck along the blue line to open a lane before firing a shot that deflected off former Hurricane Dennis Seidenberg’s knee and past Thomas.
Instead, the Canes were left shaking their heads at another good effort against Boston that ended up not being quite good enough.
“I thought the last two games Boston came in have been good games for us,” said Maurice.
“I’m just kind of tired of coming up short against that team,” said Corvo.
With his power-play goal in the third period that made the score 3-2, Corvo extended his season-high points streak to six games. He has 2 goals and 5 assists in that span, with 5 of those 7 points coming on the man advantage.
The Hurricanes will now hope for good news on forward Jussi Jokinen, who left the game midway through the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. Maurice said he didn’t know whether the injury was the same one that sidelined Jokinen for six games in late January and early February, but did say that he believed the new injury was not as serious.
“He felt he could have come back maybe in the third, but I think that was wishful thinking,” said Maurice.
In what could be viewed as either a stroke of luck or a missed opportunity, the Atlanta Thrashers, who sit one point ahead of the Hurricanes in the standings, lost 4-1 to the New York Islanders at the same time. The Canes will again have a chance to leapfrog their divisional foes in Toronto on Thursday, but are well aware that they could have already done so with even a point against the Bruins.
“You’ve got to try to get into some overtimes in the games that you don’t necessarily play your best,” said Corvo. “Especially at home, it stings a little bit.”
NOTES: After Carolina won the first meeting 3-0 on Nov. 26, Boston took three straight to win the season series … Five of Carolina’s 7 goals against Boston this season came on the power play, despite the Bruins having the league’s fourth-best penalty kill entering Tuesday’s game … All-Star Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara took six shots in the first period, and tied his season high with eight for the game … Carolina out-shot the Bruins 8-1 in the game’s first five minutes, but Boston dominated the rest of the frame 14-2 … Two of McBain’s 4 goals have come in his last three games. He has goals in two consecutive home games … Paille’s goal was his first of the season, with his previous goal coming on April 10, 2010, against Carolina.