When the Boston Bruins take a two-goal lead, they can pretty much count on skating off with a win.
The Bruins surged ahead early against the Carolina Hurricanes and then relied on their penalty-killers to earn a 4-1 victory on Monday night.
Beginning with its 2010-11 Stanley Cup championship season, Boston is 100-6-6 in games it has taken a two-goal lead. It took the Bruins about 10 minutes to establish the margin against Carolina, which had won five of seven in the series.
Boston killed four Carolina penalties, including 63 seconds when down two skaters, to extend its streak of consecutive penalty kills to 32.
”It’s commitment,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. ”Most of all, we’re winning battles. We’re doing a good job of standing teams up.”
That wasn’t the case in late October when Boston allowed goals on five consecutive power plays.
”We were really awful on the (penalty kill), which is really unusual for us,” said Tuukka Rask, who made 23 saves. ”We wanted to go back to basics, killing one penalty at a time.”
Reilly Smith and Carl Soderberg had a goal and an assist each in the first period. Johnny Boychuk scored midway through the third, and Milan Lucic added an empty-net goal for Boston, which has 11 points in seven games (5-1-1).
Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu scored his first goal of the season with 4.8 seconds left in the opening period, but Boston didn’t waver.
”That was impressive for me that we kept our composure despite that one,” Julien said.
Boston’s penalty-killing unit was especially effective in the second period, when it worked more than a minute of the Hurricanes’ 5-on-3 advantage after penalties to Boychuk and Gregory Campbell. The Bruins also killed a third-period penalty while leading 2-1.
Carolina has scored only one goal in its past 21 power plays.
The Hurricanes played their first game since Oct. 24 with Cam Ward in net. Ward, who missed 10 games because of a leg injury, made 26 saves. He rebounded from a rough start in which he gave up two goals on Boston’s first four shots.
”I thought Cam competed hard,” Carolina coach Kirk Muller said. ”He started off (with) two that weren’t easy to make saves on. After that, he hung in there.”
Smith gave Boston the lead with a power-play goal 2:31 into the game. Loui Eriksson passed to Soderberg, who found Smith in front for a one-timer that got past Ward for his third goal.
Soderberg redirected a shot by defenseman Dennis Seidenberg to put Boston ahead 2-0 midway through the first period.
The Hurricanes netted their only goal when a pass from Eric Staal went off the skate of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron and caromed to Ruutu, who nudged the puck past Rask.
NOTES: With Ward activated from the injured list, the Hurricanes reassigned goalie Mike Murphy to Charlotte (AHL). . . . Ward is 12-12-2 against Boston in 26 games. . . . Carolina center Jordan Staal played in his 500th NHL game. . . . Boston’s Eriksson extended his point streak to six games with an assist on Smith’s goal. . . . Boston defenseman Adam McQuaid missed his fourth consecutive game. . . . The teams will meet again Saturday in Boston.