Byline: Bud Barth
BOSTON - They call them the Carolina Hurricanes, but all they've been is a bag of hot air against the rest of the NHL this season.
Yet whenever they play the Bruins, they huff and they puff and they whip themselves up into a Katrina-like frenzy.
Despite owning the worst record in the Eastern Conference, the 'Canes made history last night, sweeping their season series with Boston for the first time ever - including their days as the Hartford Whalers.
Eric Staal, Tuomo Ruutu and Brandon Sutter scored, and Cam Ward made 47 mostly routine saves for his 19th career shutout as Carolina chalked up its fourth straight victory over the Bruins this season, 3-0, at TD Garden.
The Hurricanes now have handed the B's their two worst defeats of the season - 4-1 on Oct. 18 and 3-0 last night. Those are the only games Boston has lost by more than two goals. Carolina has outscored the B's, 14-5, in the four wins.
"To beat them four times is a huge compliment to our team," said Ward, whose team had lost four of its last six, "but we have to play every team like they're the Boston Bruins. It seems like they bring out the best in us."
The good news is that the Bruins don't have to worry about meeting the Hurricanes in the playoffs - that is, unless Carolina makes the greatest stretch-drive push in history.
"I don't think it's about Carolina," Patrice Bergeron said. "I think it's just about us not executing and not playing well."
"They're a good team," said goalie Tuukka Rask, who took the loss, stopping 28 of 31 shots. "You look at the standings and they're not where they want to be, but - especially against us - they play some great hockey and they seem to have our number. But in these four games, we haven't played our best either."
The Bruins' problems have been both mental and physical during their last nine games, in which they've played sub-.500 hockey (4-4-1).
Last night, they cut their only two power plays short by taking stupid penalties, both times in the third period.
They also failed to get traffic in front of Ward, who got too good a look at most of Boston's shots.
"We're not playing very smart right now," coach Claude Julien said, "and we're certainly not competing the way we should be competing. I guess, as a coach, you've got to find ways to solve that, but at the same time, the answer still remains in the dressing room, too. They've kind of got to do their share.
"We're certainly going to work on that, and on getting...