Bruins get a boisterous send-off

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Bruins get a boisterous send-off

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti
BOSTON -- For the second time this series, the Bruins are Vancouver-bound.

The B's left Boston Thursday morning, sent off on the well-wishes of hundreds of fans who gathered at the TD Garden.

This trip may be different from their first. Instead of entering enemy territory to chart the unknown, at least one question has been answered: The Bruins can, in fact, compete with the Canucks. After dropping the first two games in Vancouver -- losing one in the final 20 seconds of regulation, the other in overtime -- Boston responded with two dominant home wins, outscoring the Canucks 12-1.

So while the series is tied 2-2, the Bruins are hoping to take their momentum on the road and turn the finals in their favor.

"Last week we were going into the situation blind," said Tyler Seguin. "A lot of us players -- myself included -- haven't been in the Cup finals before so I think now everyone definitely feels more confident, more used to the situation. Hopefully we get a different result tomorrow night."

"We need to cancel all the noise around us. Their rink is pretty loud, just like the Garden. Home ice can be an advantage and we need to take that away."

Stealing Game 5 will take the utmost mental toughness. It helps that a few guys have taken these flights before.

Shawn Thornton was on Anaheim's championship team in 2007 and Mark Recchi hoisted Lord Stanley's Mug with Pittsburgh in 1991 and Carolina in 2006. The pair is happy to provide prospective to their teammates.

"The number one thing is, we've got to keep the same focus and be ready for the start. That's the most important thing," Recchi said. "The Canucks are going to go home and they're going to try to rally around their crowd. If we can hold them for the first 5, 10 minutes and get in their face -- get pucks deep and play physical hockey -- it'll play dividends in the end."

Thornton admitted that it's "exciting" any time the Cup is nearby (it'll be in the building starting with Game 6), but was quick to point out that the team isn't there yet.

"It's not so much different from the last trip," he said. "The series is evened up -- it's best out of three instead of best of seven. We've got to get through this first."

Andrew Ference also has experience to draw on. The defenseman played for Calgary during the 2003-04 Finals and was visibly thoughtful in considering the seasons side by side. In the end, he said the resolve of this Bruins team is different. And that's a good thing.

"We aren't getting ahead of ourselves," he said. "We truly aren't. I've never been on a team that's as focused as this one . . . that never got ahead of itself. I've never really thought about the scale of what we're doing right now. It's special. We're not taking anything for granted."

Especially not Roberto Luongo's breakdown.

After limiting Boston to just two goals in the first two games, the Vancouver netminder fell apart on the road. Letting up eight goals in Game 3 earned him cheers and ridicule from Hub hockey fans; giving up four more in the next outing earned him the derision of Canucks fans at home. Vancouver's coaching staff signaled the end of its patience by pulling the starter Wednesday night.

But the Bruins aren't dwelling on it.

"He's an unbelievable goaltender," Thornton said. "And it kind of scares me that he's had a couple off-nights, because I know he'll bounce back and have an unbelievable one."

"The Canucks know Luongo is one of the best goalies in the league, so they aren't too worried about it," Seguin agreed. "I'm sure they're still confident. Luongo is known to bounce back, so we need to be ready and stay sharp for that."

They're probably thinking of Vancouver's first-round series with Chicago.

Luongo was stellar in the first three games, allowing just five goals, before allowing 11 in a trio of ugly losses, including two on the road. He bounced back in the series finale, stopping 31 of 32 shots to secure Vancouver's advance.

This resilience is what the Bruins are expecting. But they also have expectations for their own keeper.

Tim Thomas has been Boston's trump card all season and his teammates continued to sing his praises as they boarded the bus.

"I'm so happy that we have our goalie," Ference laughed. "He's the best, he really is. As a defensemen, it's a special treat to play in front of Timmy. That's all I know."

Thomas -- with his league-leading .936 save percentage and 2.11 goals-against average duing the playoffs -- is a big piece of what sounds to be a pretty simple plan. The Bruins hope to keep doing what they're doing in the return to Rogers Arena. Why mess with a good thing?

"It's our physical play," said Recchi. "We skated very well. We played our system very well and obviously Timmy's been great. We came back home and were confident we could do this. We've got a long ways to go still, but it was a step. Now we've got to go and steal home ice from them."

Though it must pass through Vancouver, the Bruins know if they stay the course it will lead them back home. They're just hoping it's the last trip they make.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

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Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

BROOKLYN, NY – Things didn’t go so well last season for the Bruins when Tuukka Rask suddenly wasn’t well enough to play in the last game of the season, so there was good reason for the B’s to be a little nervous when their No. 1 goalie again couldn’t answer the bell Saturday night vs. the Islanders.

Anton Khudobin had won four games in a row headed into Saturday night, of course, and in his previous start he’d helped snap a 10-game winning streak for the Calgary Flames. So perhaps it wasn’t all that surprising when Khudobin stood tall for the Bruins making 18 saves in a tight, nervy 2-1 win over the Isles at the Barclays Center.

“You don’t have that many shots, but maybe 10 scoring chances…that can be tougher than seeing 30 shots and same amount of scoring chances,” said Khudobin. “But I’m glad got the job done, we got our points and we got the ‘W’.”

It wasn’t wall-to-wall action in a game where both teams combined for 37 shots on net, but it was still impressive that Khudobin and the B’s special teams killed off six Islander power plays in such a tight hockey game. After the B’s backup netminder was lauded for the way he battled in the crease and competed for pucks like his team’s very life was on the line in a pivotal game.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard, and fighting that hard to see pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I loved his performance. He’s a battler. He got swimming a couple of times, but that’s Dobby. He keeps it interesting for you. He’s a battler and he always has been. That’s what we needed tonight.”

One could spend days analyzing Cassidy's words and wondering much of that was deserved, appreciative praise for Khudobin, and how much of that might have been a veiled message to Boston's No. 1 goaltender sitting back home in Boston. 

The best save of the night probably won’t even count as a save for the Russian netminder. It was John Tavares, after having beaten Khudobin once in the first period, moving into the offensive zone with speed during a third period power play, and getting an open look at the net front in the high slot. Khudobin thought quickly and dropped into the unconventional double-stack pad save that seemed to throw Tavares off just a little, and the Isles sniper smoked the shot off the crossbar rather than tying up the game.

“I didn’t touch it. I didn’t really have time to get there, so the only thing I tried to do was the two-pad stack, old school Bob Essensa-style,” said Khudobin, who has now improved to 6-5-1 with a 2.60 goals against and an .899 save percentage this season. “Then he hit the crossbar. You need to get some luck in this league, and if you don’t get luck you’re going to lose games.”

A little luck and a little good, old-fashioned battling between the pipes was enough for Khudobin and the Bruins in Saturday night’s mammoth win. Now the questions become whether or not to go right back to Khudobin again on Tuesday at home against the Nashville Predators.