Boston Bruins coach Pat Burns has a logical answer when asked if he'll keep playing veteran Ray Bourque more than 30 minutes a game.
"Why am I saving him?" Burns said following a 5-2 victory Sunday over the Carolina Hurricanes in which Bourque moved into fourth place on the NHL career assist list. "People spend big money to come and watch a guy like Ray Bourque play."
Dmitri Khristich and Darren Van Impe each scored two goals and it was another typical night for Bourque, the 20-year veteran defenseman who logged 33 minutes on 27 shifts.
"I love the game, I don't think I would able to play just 10, 12 minutes a game," said the 37-year-old Bourque. "It's fun to still be able to get out there in all situations and help the team win hockey games."
Carolina came into the game with the most points in the Eastern Conference (15) and fresh off a pair of road wins, but Boston rallied with three straight power-play goals after the Hurricanes went ahead 1-0.
Khristich scored with 6:18 left in the second period as Bourque notched his 1,041st career assist. Khristich and Bourque teamed up again early in the third period on his sixth goal of the season to give the Bruins some breathing room.
Bourque's first assist moved him past Marcel Dionne on the all-time assist list, and the veteran defenseman now trails third-place Gordie Howe by seven.
"It's nice, but after it's all done you'll look back and see what kind of numbers you've put up and it will be kind of neat," Bourque said of his assists.
Van Impe added another insurance goal midway through the final period as Arturs Irbe, who entered the game with a league-leading 1.11 goals-against average, gave up his highest goal total of the season. Irbe had beaten the Bruins 2-0 two weeks ago in Boston.
"Irbe was the big difference in that first game, he really stoned us," said Bourque.
Nelson Emerson added a goal for the Hurricanes with 5:08 left and Jason Allison, who also had three assists, scored less than a minute later to round out the scoring.
The Bruins were coming off a 0-0 tie Saturday in Pittsburgh and were locked in a tight-checking game through 30 minutes with Carolina before three goals were scored in a span of 2:23.
Meanwhile, the Hurricanes were playing their third game in four days.
"A number of guys who were going hard looked a little beat at the end," said Carolina coach Paul Maurice. "I don' think we had much in the legs, that's why our penalty killing struggled. And then there's that Bourque fellow who's not that bad."
Ron Francis broke his five-game pointless streak when he banked a shot from a poor angle off the back of Byron Dafoe's pad. The goaltender lost the puck at his feet and ended up kicking it inthis own net with his skates.
Boston then struck for a pair of power-play goals in a span of 1:19 as Carolina captain Keith Primeau was off on a pair of minor penalties for holding and unsportsmanlike conduct.
Van Impe tied the score with 7:37 left in the second period with a shot from the slot that beat Irbe on his stick side. It was Van Impe's second goal of the season and broke a scoreless string for Boston that lasted more than 101 minutes.
A little more than a minute later, Bourque's slap shot from the point was tipped in by Khristich.
Primeau's penalty was one of three taken by the Hurricanes when they had the man advantage, further limiting an already slumping power play that is 6 for 72 for the season third worst in the league.
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