RALEIGH — For the third time in four days, the Carolina Hurricanes faced a big, bruising team.
For the second time in three days, the Hurricanes lost to a big, bruising team.
The Boston Bruins punched out a 4-1 victory Monday at PNC Arena, getting a bounce-back game from goalie Tuukka Rask and more than enough goals against a team struggling to find the net.
The Canes (8-9-4) had goalie Cam Ward back in net for the first time since Oct. 24. They also got a boost from forward Tuomo Ruutu, who scored his first goal of the season with 4.8 seconds left in the first period.
But Canes coach Kirk Muller said the team didn’t have enough “juice” to beat the Bruins after physical games against Anaheim on Friday and then at St. Louis on Saturday. It also hurt that forwards Alexander Semin and Jeff Skinner were out with injuries – Skinner made a scratch after going through the morning skate.
Ward suffered what he said was a groin tear in the Oct. 24 game at Minnesota. With backup goalie Anton Khudobin also injured, Justin Peters had started the past 10 games for Carolina.
Ward was activated off injured reserve Monday. The Bruins (13-6-1) scored their first goal on a chip by forward Reilly Smith on a power play, then made it 2-0 later in the first when Dennis Seidenberg’s shot from the point glanced off Bruins forward Carl Soderberg.
“It felt really good to get back in the net,” Ward said. “It’s not an easy thing. Unfortunately I’ve had some bad luck lately with my injuries.”
“It wasn’t exactly the best start. They came out jumping in that first period.”
But Ruutu scored late in the first and Ward settled in, making saves, keeping the Canes in it.
“He hung in there, battling hard,” Muller said. “He got better as the game went on.”
The Bruins netted their third goal at 10 minutes, 29 seconds in the third period.
After a scramble in front of the crease, Ward was pulled out of net as Boston’s Milan Lucic skated past him. Ward then had his stick pinned as the Bruins’ Johnny Boychuk ripped in a shot for a 3-1 lead.
“Obviously there was a collision in front of me,” Ward said. “It took me out of position, out of net. On top of that, I went to go back in net and my stick was caught. Tough break.”
Asked if there appeared to be goaltender interference on the play, Muller said bodies were tangled up and it was hard to tell. He added, “Tough timing. We were coming on, but that goal killed us.”
Ruutu’s goal came when he crashed the net. Eric Staal’s pass hit the skate of Boston’s Patrice Bergeron in the slot, then went off Ruutu’s stick and past Rask.
The Canes then had 63 seconds of a 5-on-3 power play in the second period but could get just one shot. Chris Terry fired a shot with a second left in the two-man advantage but that was it.
Muller had Ruutu and Drayson Bowman on Eric Staal’s line. Defenseman Mike Komisarek again was used at forward and was on Riley Nash’s line with Terry, although Muller made changes during the game.
“We had to put some combinations together that are not used to each other,” Muller said.
Alexander Semin was hurt Saturday in the 4-2 loss to the Blues after taking a big hit from Alex Pietrangelo. Muller said he was not sure about the severity of the injury, saying the Canes were awaiting the results of additional medical tests.
Rask, who said he was “pretty bad” in the Bruins’ 4-2 loss Friday to Ottawa, finished with 23 saves on Monday. Lucic scored the Bruins’ final goal on an empty-netter.
“We just didn’t have enough extra juice to fight back,” Muller said. “I thought the guys fought and battled, just not enough to get back in it.”