Thomas, Bruins, Weather Canes

RALEIGH — Coming off a 7-0 blowout loss to the Boston Bruins Monday, the Carolina Hurricanes couldn’t solve goaltender Tim Thomas (43 saves) Tuesday night at the RBC Center as the Bruins swept the home-and-home series, 3-2.

The Hurricanes have been playing their best hockey of the year as of late, but they were unable to gain any points in the standings in either game against the Northeast division leading Bruins.

Just 2:04 into the first period, Johnny Boychuk opened up the scoring with his first goal of the season. The goal was a result of a Jussi Jokinen tripping penalty that occurred only 17 seconds into the game.

Several minutes before and after Boychuk’s goal, the Bruins controlled the puck well, dominated zone time, and dictated the overall pace of the game as the Bruins were 17-13 coming into Monday’s contest when scoring first.

Instead of falling apart like they did on Monday, the ‘Canes regrouped quickly and were able to shift the momentum midway through the first.  Carolina registered 19 shots on goal in both of the first two periods. Despite 38 shots through 40 minutes, only one made it past Thomas.

The ‘Canes hard work paid off when Jussi Jokinen scored a power play goal in front of the crease 18:39 into the first period. The goal came off rebound from a wide-angled shot by captain Eric Staal. Jokinen has been one of the hottest players in the league as of late, registering 10 points in his past seven games.

Much of Carolina’s recent success has been due to Jokinen’s offensive explosion, and it hasn’t gone without notice. The 27 year-old Finnish winger was just named the first star of the week by the NHL.

“I feel like I’m playing my best hockey this season,” said Jokinen. “I hope I can keep going the same way and help this team win and make the playoffs.”

After Brad Marchand gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead early in the third, Chad LaRose tied the game at 2-2 at 9:19 sending the majority of the 17,419 fans in attendance into a frenzy. LaRose’s tally was the first even-strength goal the Hurricanes have scored against the Bruins this season.

The electric crowd was soon quieted when Milan Lucic shot a one-timer past Ward, giving the Bruins a 3-2 lead. After the goal, a smattering of cheers were heard throughout the arena, as fans wearing black and gold celebrated the go-ahead goal.

The key matchup of the night was between the goaltenders. While Thomas saw a lot more shots than Cam Ward, the Hurricanes netminder made several crucial saves to keep his team in the game. Bruins only mustered 28 shots on goal, but they created a lot of quality chances, forcing Ward to come up big for his team.

Thomas, who is leading NHL goalies in every major category, showed why he is currently the top candidate for the Vezina Trophy as he improved his record to 22-4-6.

Thomas’ save percentage currently stands at .945%. The single-season record is held by Dominik Hasek, who had a save percentage of .937% for the Sabres during the 1998-99 season. If he can continue at his current pace, Thomas’ chase for history will become one of the biggest headlines of the 2010011 season.

Despite the outcome, the Hurricanes have a lot to be happy following tonight’s performance. After losing to Boston the day before, it would have been easy to give up after falling behind early. Instead, Carolina fought back and controlled the pace of the game for the majority of the contest.

Unfortunately for Eric Staal’s team, they ran into the best goaltender in the league.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted, but our compete level was there,” said Staal. “We created a ton of chances, a lot of offense, a lot of shots and didn’t get the result we wanted. We can’t get discouraged.”

In addition to 45 shots on goal, the Hurricanes took 28 shots that were blocked. Given the offensive effort, Carolina should be proud of how they played tonight.

“I don’t think there’s anything left in that room,” head coach Paul Maurice said. “I thought they played as hard as they possibly could.”

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