BOSTON — The Carolina Hurricanes have been tough to knock off their game all year. Their commitment to doing things their way has been a cornerstone in their success in 2019, and they had little reason to expect that to change in the playoffs. For the first two rounds, it didn’t.
Round 3 has been another story.
The Hurricanes were behind the puck all night, getting knocked off their game far too easily and losing their composure at critical moments, and all that added up to an easy win for the Boston Bruins. Matt Grzelcyk scored twice and Tuukka Rask made 21 easy saves in a 6-2 shellacking that drops the Hurricanes into a 2-0 series deficit with the Eastern Conference Final returning to Raleigh for Game 3 on Tuesday.
It started well for the Hurricanes, who clearly had designs on taking the game to the Bruins physically. Micheal Ferland stapled Grzelcyk to the boards in front of the Boston bench early, and even Justin Faulk got into the act, sending Torey Krug to the ice with a helicopter hip check.
The Hurricanes were handed a power play when Zdeno Chara tripped Andrei Svechnikov twelve minutes into the period, but couldn’t dent Rask. That loomed large 90 seconds later when the Bruins took the lead through Grzelcyk, whose weak shot snuck through Petr Mrazek and just over the goal line to give the Bruins the opening goal for the second straight game.
But unlike Thursday, when the Hurricanes stuck with it and came back to tie the game, the visitors came apart at the seams following Grzelcyk’s goal. Justin Williams was called for a tripping penalty that infuriated the Hurricanes captain with 1:30 to go, but he barely had time to sit down in the penalty box before Jake DeBrusk doubled the Bruins lead with a rebound goal that he poked past Mrazek with the defensive combination of Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin out to lunch in front of the net.
Another power play, one of the worst the Hurricanes have exhibited in the playoffs (and that’s really saying something), went absolutely nowhere to begin the second, and like clockwork, less than a minute later Connor Clifton gave the Bruins a 3-0 lead on a broken play with Mrazek down and out and Calvin de Haan down on the ice to block a shot that never came.
Already fraying along the edges, the Hurricanes’ frustration boiled over late in the second, when Brad Marchand (who else?) headlocked Svechnikov with no call, and then tackled Williams. The latter prompted the normally even-keeled Carolina captain to facewash the Bruins pest and earn a holding penalty.
You know what happened next. Grzelcyk scored his second of the game on a partial breakaway with 11 seconds left in the power play, and things went from bad to worse for a Hurricanes team that was unable to cope with the Bruins in nearly every possible way. The day was summed up by a Slavin shot that was tipped toward the Boston net, right into Rask’s glove without the goalie even needing to move an inch to make the save.
The bloodletting continued into the third. David Backes made it 5-0 a minute into the final frame by tapping home a David Krejci shot that trickled parallel to the goal line but never into the net. After yet another lifeless Carolina power play, the second of the game with Bergeron in the box and the Bruins without their best penalty killer, the Bruins finished off the clobbering when Bergeron beat Dougie Hamilton down the ice and centered to Danton Heinen, who had beaten Slavin to the front of the net and had an easy tap-in.
Williams broke Rask’s shutout with 8:43 to go, deflecting Justin Faulk’s shot in the high slot past the goaltender to end a run of ten straight Bruins goals dating back to the third period of Game 1. That was followed up by Teuvo Teravainen scoring into a vacated Boston net after Rask misplayed a puck with 2:30 to go to make the final score a bit more respectable.
But that was as close as the Hurricanes would get, going back home down 2-0 in the series and with plenty of questions to ponder before taking the ice in what can fairly be described as a must-win Game 3 on Tuesday.
They Said It
They’re a good team. It’s always difficult when you play good teams, and we’re not helping ourselves, but I don’t know if there’s anything specific. They’re a good team.
The first one was no good, he knows that, and that’s a tough one. Nothing’s going on either way, with either team, which is what we want at the start of the game there. That’s a tough one. Willy’s [second] penalty is probably not a penalty, and now we open up, now we get away from trying to do what we want to do. We have zero success when we do it that way. Tough night.
We talked about [pulling Mrazek], but he didn’t want to come out. He’s a battler. A lot of the other guys deserved to come out if that’s how we did it, so that’s not how we do it. Like I said, the only one I thought he’d want to have back was the first one, and he’ll tell you that. I’m not going to let him off the hook; I’m not going to let anyone off the hook. If he wants to battle it out, that’s how we’re going to go about it.
We got a little frustrated after the second one, but again, we weren’t very good after the first period. The last five minutes of the first and throughout the rest of the game, we got off our game. Give them credit, there’s a reason we got off our game. They’re playing their game, we haven’t gotten to ours.
Maybe one other [game] that I can remember that was even remotely like this. At the end of the day, [Mrazek] doesn’t want to come out, and he earns that right for me to stay in there. It wasn’t his fault the way the game was. We’ve got to regroup. It’s all you can do.
The steam was taken out when they got theirs at the end of the period. To me, you can just feel it, and that was the cooker. We needed an answer, and we didn’t have it.
Two different series [Washington and this one], but a lot of similarities in how we were beat, I think. The score here felt worse than it actually was. I look up and we have 25 shots we’d give up; it felt like we gave up 80. Yes, it feels a lot different. I think the quality has been better that we’re giving up. That’s not a good sign. We’re going to have to regroup, the other night wasn’t as bad, we were right in the game. We just have to kind of remember that. Whether you lose 1-0, 2-1 in overtime or 10-0, it really doesn’t matter. It’s about the next game, and we’re still alive.
[On the PP:] That’s one area that’s deflating. We lost the special teams battle. That’s not good. All in all, we have to rediscover who we are. You spend all this time off thinking that we’re going right into a graveyard. You come out and sometimes you have to eat a poop sandwich. It doesn’t taste good, you have to chew on it a little bit, and get the taste out of our mouth next game.
We’ve done it before. Experience is what we lean on right now. It comes with experience. We certainly don’t think we can’t do it, but if they are going to advance, we’re going to make it as tough as we can. We’ll chew on it, and Game 3 is ours, hopefully.
I thought in general, looking back through the whole game we weren’t good enough. Whether it was the last five minutes of the first that did it in, I don’t know, but our 5-on-5 play isn’t good enough, our special teams isn’t good enough. It’s all around everything, and everyone’s got to chip in, grind harder, be desperate to win hockey games.
I think we still feel confident that we can win at home, and we’re going to go in that building and do what we do best and give it all we got and try to find a way to get a win and move forward.
I don’t think we even played in their end enough to get enough good shots. I thought we were trying to be a little too cute around the blue lines with our forwards and D instead of trying to crash the net and shoot pucks more. I think in general we have to be grinding it out in their end more and getting to the net, but obviously they make it difficult for you. We’re going to have to find ways to get through.
The power play is huge. If we don’t score, we have to get some momentum off it. Just getting some ice time on the power play, you should put the puck in the net sometimes. Sometimes it’s just tough. You don’t get the bounces. I thought we got a couple good looks, but it’s just a little off. We have to figure it out.
We haven’t found our game yet. We just have to put this behind now and try to stay positive. It’s still early in the series so we have to go home now and bathe through.
We believe. We keep believing. It’s good that [we’ve had] this type of experience before. We just have to go home and do our best.
Yeah. Of course I want to stay in the whole game. I wasn’t happy with the first goal. Obviously I have to have that.
It’s 2-0. We’ve been in this situation before. We just have to shake it off and come out for the next one. I just have to stop more pucks than I did today, that’s for sure. I have to be better for sure, with everything. I’m feeling very good, no issues with that.
- Brind’Amour juggled just about everything in the lineup midway through the second period. The fourth line was the only thing unchanged: Foegele-Staal-Teravainen, Niederreiter-Aho-Williams, Svech-Wallmark-McGinn. As for the pairings: Slavin-Pesce, Faulk-de Haan, Fleury-Hamilton.
- I would be stunned if Curtis McElhinney doesn’t start on Tuesday. Mrazek hasn’t been the singular issue in the first two games, which have by and large been group stinkers, but it seems like the Bruins have figured something out on him and McElhinney presents a different type of challenge. At this point, Brind’Amour has nothing really to lose by making the switch.
- With that in mind, there’s no way on Earth that I can imagine Slavin will have another clunker like he had tonight. It was noticeable in his first two shifts that he wasn’t himself for whatever reason. When he’s lost, the Hurricanes defense is up a creek without a paddle. It doesn’t happen often, and it’s a good thing it doesn’t because you saw today how integral it is to the Canes’ team success for him to be on his game.
- Would I have pulled Mrazek? Probably, but that’s not Rod’s M.O. and hasn’t been all season. You can read it in his quote: he believes that Mrazek has earned the right to stay in. He’s not going to change that part of his personality.
- At times it felt like the Hurricanes put all their eggs in the “we’re gonna show THEM!” basket, coming out and hitting everything that moves at every possible opportunity. Then, when that first goal went in, they couldn’t flip the switch back to their normal operating mode. If nothing else, it’s a cautionary tale of how important it is to play your own game, and not try to get suckered into playing the other team’s, even if you have some modicum of success doing so.
- We’re headed back to Raleigh tomorrow; the team is on the way there tonight. No word yet on a practice, although it seems likely they’ll practice tomorrow afternoon at PNC.