BOSTON - Tim Thomas stopped 19 shots for his first NHL playoff shutout to help the Boston Bruins keep their season going with a 4-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday night.

Phil Kessel scored twice and Zdeno Chara gave Boston big emotional lift when he returned in the third period after leaving the ice in the second when he was slashed by Jussi Jokinen. Chara and Marc Savard each had a pair of assists for top-seeded Boston, which had lost three straight playoff games.

Cam Ward made 36 saves for the Hurricanes, who lead the best-of-seven series 3-2. Game 6 is at Carolina on Tuesday.

Thomas had a career-high five shutouts in the regular season, when he led the NHL with a 2.10 goals-against average and became a Vezina Trophy finalist. But it had been Ward who dominated the series, allowing three goals in three games as the Hurricanes responded to a Game 1 loss with three straight victories.

Eric Staal, who had four goals in the previous three games, had three shots in Game 5 and was minus-3.

Chara took a stick to the left shin from Jokinen in the final minute of the second period. After laying on the ice for a few minutes, he skated off on his own but didn't return for the start of the third.

When he came onto the bench shortly after the faceoff, the crowd began chanting "Cha-ra!" And when he slipped over the dasher boards with 19:12 to play, the fans stood.

An Original Six team that has not won the Stanley Cup since Bobby Orr skated around the ice with it in 1972, the Bruins entered the playoffs with the best record in the East and swept Montreal in the first round. But they have struggled against Carolina, a team they beat in all four regular-season meetings, losing three times by a combined score of 10-3 to fall to the brink of elimination.

Boston needs to win the next two to stay alive in a tournament that has already claimed the San Jose Sharks, the No. 1 overall seed.

The Bruins came out with a more physical lineup, subbing Shawn Thornton for rookie Blake Wheeler, and immediately took charge. Carolina didn't have a shot in the first 11:04, and the Hurricanes were outshot 40-19 overall.

Milan Lucic helped set up the first goal with a crunching check on Dennis Seidenberg late in the first period. When Seidenberg responded, he drew a slashing penalty. Just 7 seconds into the power play, Mark Recchi redirected Chara's shot past Ward to break a scoreless tie.

Kessel scored twice in the second period, both times assisted by Savard, to give Boston a 3-0 lead. Lucic made it 4-0 in the third.

Notes: Four of the five games have been decided by at least three goals. ... Boston has never won a playoff series in which it trailed 3-1. The only time the Bruins forced a seventh game was against Montreal in the first round last season. ... Boston has never lost a playoff series to the Hartford/Carolina franchise. ... The Bruins gave out yellow towels for fans to wave, but several were thrown at Hurricanes defenceman Joni Pitkanen in the penalty box in the third period.

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