Jussi Jokinen scored his third game-winning goal of the playoffs and added an assist as the Carolina Hurricanes started and finished strong in a 4-1 home victory over the Boston Bruins on Friday night.
Eric Staal potted two goals for Carolina, while Sergei Samsonov continued to bedevil the team that originally drafted him, scoring for a second straight game.
Jokinen, who went without a goal for 21 games into the playoffs and was deemed expendable by the lowly Tampa Bay Lightning this season, now has six goals in the last eight games.
"It's been quite a ride the last three months and especially in the playoffs," said Jokinen. "But I'm not satisfied with it and how things are right now .… We still have a long way to go."
Boston centre Marc Savard tied the score in the second, the only decent period the Bruins played. The Hurricanes completely overwhelmed the visitors in the first and the third with relentless checking.
The Bruins finished 19 points ahead of the Hurricanes and won all four regular season meetings, but they now face the prospect of being eliminated in their own building on Sunday night, when Game 5 takes place.
Boston again lost the special teams battle. While they scored their first power-play goal after 10 missed opportunities, they allowed Carolina to score on two of their first three chances.
"I think our team has probably picked the worst time of the year to play their worst hockey," said coach Claude Julien. "When you look at the whole team right now, there isn't anybody that has played up to their potential.
"You can see the frustration on the players right now, and it's certainly getting worse. This is something that has to be resolved before next game, and we don't have much time to do that."
Boston, for a second consecutive game, failed to get sustained pressure on goalie Cam Ward, finishing with 21 shots, but not many of them very threatening.
At the other end, Tim Thomas held the Bruins in as long as he could and prevented his side from being down two or three goals after a disastrous opening period. Thomas finished with 33 saves.
Carolina got big contributions from their star player Staal and their surprise story Jokinen.
Staal now has nine goals, tying him with Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for the playoff lead, but he wanted to talk about the team's surprise sniper, Jokinen.
Undisciplined penalty for Krejci
"We're going to keep getting them from [him] the rest of the way, too," Staal said. "It's still early. He's played phenomenal.
"He's really finding those areas and scoring key goals. "You always have those guys in the playoffs, and he seems to be having that confidence."
Carolina dominated the visitors in the first period and were helped an undisciplined penalty taken by Boston's David Krejci.
Just seconds after P.J. Axelsson got off a weak shot on a short-handed breakaway, Staal picked up a loose puck at the right circle and took a shot that snuck through Thomas.
The Hurricanes fed off the goal and swarmed the Bruins, with Matt Cullen narrowly missing a chance to put the Hurricanes up by two.
Carolina later squandered a four-on-two opportunity, as they were unable to get a clean shot on Thomas.
The Boston netminder late in the period needed to make a multiple saves on Ray Whitney and then foiled Cullen again to keep the Bruins down just one goal.
The Bruins made the most of a Tuomo Ruutu penalty early in the second. Savard worked a give-and-go with Mark Recchi, tucking the puck past Ward near the right post.
Zdeno Chara and Phil Kessel had shots for Boston that grazed the post in the first.
Boston managed to slow down the pace of the game to their advantage in the first half of the period but had few other good chances to score until Michael Ryder blasted a shot at Ward's pads with just under seven minutes left in the period.
Two-on-one while short-handed
With Erik Cole in his lap, Thomas stopped Whitney's power-play bid late in the second.
Boston had a two-on-one while short-handed early in the third but failed to get a shot on net. It proved crucial as the Hurricanes move the puck down the ice and scored what held up as the winner.
Rod Brind'Amour sent the puck through the crease between Thomas and the post for Jokinen to deposit his latest big goal.
Thomas made a heads-up play with Carolina players skating off for a change, throwing the puck over 120 feet to Savard, whose shot from the right side was muffled by Ward.
It would be the last thing resembling a Boston highlight in the game, with the Hurricanes scoring 70 seconds apart.
Samsonov took a pass from Jokinen and wheeled to the right side, lifting the puck backhanded over Thomas. Staal then drove down the right wing to beat the netminder.
Boston defenceman Dennis Wideman was badly victimized on both plays.
The Hurricanes are now 4-1 at RBC Centre during the playoffs.
The Bruins, meanwhile, will try to accomplish something never done before in franchise history — rally from a 3-1 deficit. Boston has gone on to lose all 21 series it has been in the predicament.
"We've got to be realistic. In being realistic, you've got to know that you can do it," said Thomas. "We can win three games in a row. How many times in the season did we do it?
"We still have a chance."