RALEIGH — After losing both games at TD Garden, the Carolina Hurricanes came home on Tuesday in hopes of getting back into this best-of-seven Eastern Conference Final against the Boston Bruins.
Unfortunately, it just wasn’t in the cards for Carolina, whose loss on Tuesday put them down 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Final and on the brink of elimination from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It was all Carolina from the jump. In front of an insanely loud crowd, the Canes jumped on the Bruins and pinned them in their own zone early and often, leading to an early delay of game call when Brandon Carlo’s clearing attempt went straight into the seats.
The Canes managed a number of scoring chances, particularly late, but Tuukka Rask continued his excellent play in net and kept the score tied at nil.
The drama that ensued through the first period involved Justin Williams, who continuously went after Torey Krug for reasons that... weren’t very clear. Regardless of the why, he just kept going after him, and it resulted in three minor penalties against the Canes captain in the first 20 minutes.
Despite outshooting the B’s 20-6, the Canes had nothing on the scoreboard through the first period, thanks in large part to their lack of success on the man advantage and some downright dominant goalie play from Rask.
It felt like the Hurricanes missed a huge opportunity by not scoring in the first period given how great they played, and the Bruins really drove that feeling home with a pair of goals early in the middle frame.
The first tally came shortly after one of Williams’ penalties expired and came off the stick of Chris Wagner, who was left wide open on the backdoor after a defensive zone turnover from Brock McGinn. Brett Pesce lost Wagner in coverage, and a spot-on pass from former Hurricane Joakim Nordstrom made it an easy tap-in to make it 1-0.
Then, just under six-and-a-half minutes into the period, a Nino Niederreiter high-sticking minor led to Boston taking a 2-0 lead. It was a bad bounce that doomed the Canes, as Brad Marchand’s shot tipped off of Calvin de Haan’s glove in the slot and then bounced down on the ice and through the legs of Curtis McElhinney. Marchand’s sixth of the postseason brought the volume of the PNC Arena crowd down to its lowest point of the postseason.
After a number of big opportunities, including an odd-man rush chance from Sebastian Aho that was bodied down in magnificent fashion by Tuukka Rask, it just seemed like Boston wasn’t going to let Carolina even have a chance of getting back into it.
Until they did.
After all of the grade-A chances and marvelous stops from Rask, naturally it was an unscreened slap shot from Calvin de Haan right along the ice that somehow snuck through the legs of Rask and got the Canes on the board. And the crowd back into the game.
It was de Haan’s first career NHL postseason goal and his first tally in 69 games. It was really nice timing for it.
Carolina very nearly tied the game just a few shifts later when the Jordan Staal line rushed the puck up ice and Teuvo Teravainen’s cross-seam pass to Andrei Svechnikov got shuffled wide of a wide-open cage. That was a gut-punch, but the Canes had gotten back into the hockey game and set themselves up for a massive third period, down by just a goal.
In all reality, it was 20 minutes for their season. Either win the period/game, or go down three games to none to the Boston Bruins.
The first half of the first period a handful of quality chances for Carolina, including a shuffle backhander from Aho that was knocked down by Rask early in the period and a deflection on a man advantage from Jordan Staal that, again, was taken care of by Rask.
As the period wore on, Boston had some strong offensive zone shifts as Carolina started to wear down. The Bruins’ fourth line, in particular, put together some terrific shifts, as they have all series to this point.
The Hurricanes continued to struggle in their attempts to get things going through the first 15 minutes of the third period. One final, desperate push from the Canes did manage to turn up the heat on the Bruins, but their suffocating defense and hot goalie were just too much for the Canes.
An 0/5 effort on the power play played a massive role in the loss, as did a first period full of great scoring chances that resulted in no scoring for the home team. Carolina got their chances, but in the end, they just couldn’t put the puck in the net - and that’s what’ll hurt the most about this game. They were so, so close.
With the loss, the Hurricanes are now down 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Final. They’ll look to avoid elimination on Thursday night when the two clubs meet again at PNC Arena for game four.
They Said It
It was fine. Obviously you need to get something out of that period. I think not getting anything is a little bit demoralizing. The game kind of flipped in the second, but you’ve got to come away with something with all you have going on in the first. Obviously we didn’t.
You’ve got to work for your luck. We said before the game, we want to at least show everybody what we were about. We hadn’t done that for two games, really. I think you can feel good about the fact that we at least gave them a game. To me, we hadn’t given them a game yet. It was pretty easy, I think, for them. At least we battled hard. Obviously we came out exactly how we wanted to, and it just didn’t work out. Proud of the way we played that game, other than on the power play. The execution on that was obviously not good, but everything else in our game was the way we want to do it.
[McElhinney] was really good, I thought. Just a change, again, we’ve been happy with both guys, so it’s not really that hard of a decision. We’ve rotated all year. We actually thought about rotating at the start of the playoffs, just because why wouldn’t you? It was working, but Petr got hot there, so we rode him out and then you get injured, I don’t like taking guys out because they get injured, so we gave him a chance and kind of decided to rotate again. Mac was great. He gave us a chance tonight, that’s all you can ask, and the other guy was pretty special on the other end. It was a good battle there.
[The power plays] were actually good. They had a lot of good looks, a ton of good chances on the power play. The 4-on-3 and the 5-on-3 weren’t great, but the other ones definitely had enough looks to make you think you’d maybe get one. We switched them around a bit. It’s been a bit of an Achilles heel all year, from my point of view, but you’ve got to score on those. In the playoffs, especially, you don’t get that many good looks in a game. That’s one where you’ve got to find the back of the net.
It was kind of weird. We’re trying to play hard. One penalty maybe, Willy got a little high on a hit. That’s not characteristic. They’re just battling. They were calling it tight, so you’ve got to kind of know that. Too many penalties for us. If we’re going to win, we can’t take that many penalties. We know that. A couple of them I thought were kind of light, especially at this time of the year. You’ve got to understand how they’re calling it, generally in the playoffs you think they’re going to let it go a little more, and there’s a lot of nicky-tacky penalties there — but they’re calling them. So you have to kind of understand that, but he’s just trying to win. He’s giving you everything he has. Everyone did tonight. That’s what I’m happy about; at least that looked like a team that had a chance to win, versus the other two games which didn’t really sit right.
You’re going to hear the same old stuff that you hear from every coach over the last hundred years when you’re down 3-0. It won’t be anything special - one game at a time, da da da - but it’s true. We’re not going to beat them four times in the next game. We’ve got to try to win one period, then see what happens. It’s tough right now; I told the guys, this sucks. There’s no way around it, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. You got kicked in the you know where, and it’s going to hurt for a while, but tomorrow we’ll pick the pieces up and give our best effort, and see what happens.
[On Rask:] He’s definitely a difference maker. You can feel it from their point of view, when he makes a save that maybe should go in, there [were] a couple in the second period, point-blankers - I remember Aho had one, really that should be in but he makes a save. That lifts your team, big time. We’ve had it too, all year, and Mac made a couple tonight too. But when you make them over and over on some real good grade-A’s, that’s how you win.
It’s frustrating, but we’re going to put this behind us and focus on the next game.
[On if there’s still hope after going down 3-0] Yeah, for sure. We’ll just take it day-by-day - that’s been the motto all year. There’s, for sure, hope. We believe.
[On if he felt like the Canes played their game] Yeah, for sure. You could see how hard we were pressing. Getting lots of shots and traffic. Just a couple of mistakes, and that’s the game.
[On if how well they played makes this loss tougher] For sure. It’s not fun losing, right? You’re here to win, and we didn’t get the win.
[What was the difference?] One goal. That’s it. They scored on the power play, our power play wasn’t - again, 5-on-3, 4-on-3, we didn’t get enough on it. The difference, they scored a power play goal. Special teams today, I guess. The disappointment’s written all over my face right now.
[Rask] was really good early, that’s for sure. We had a lot of opportunities in the first period, probably deserved a little better, but hey, that’s the way it is. Lot of chances, he made a lot of great saves early, and throughout the game. We weren’t able to get the lead yet.
The first two games, quite frankly, just weren’t good enough. This one we were good, but sometimes it saws off. They got the goals, and they shut us down pretty good. I thought we had a lot of great traffic. He looked around; listen, he was really good tonight.
Right now it’s very disappointing, obviously. I’ll probably give you tomorrow the cliches that are going to be thrown to you and everything, but we’ll look at that tomorrow.
It was more of how we wanted to play, absolutely. It just didn’t happen for us. That stinks, that’s the way it goes sometimes, but we’re not going to go away quietly.
[On if it was tough to get into the game after getting so few shots in the first period] Yeah, a little bit. I thought we came out as a team and we were rolling. We had some good looks, but we just couldn’t find the back of the net. It’s tough to sit there and watch all the action at the other end, but I got into it a bit in the second period.
[On the Marchand goal deflected off of de Haan] Yeah, it’s tough. Obviously, he makes a move to the slot there and you kinda lose sight of it. Just an unfortunate bounce.
[On if they just have to stay focused on the next game] I don’t think we really have a choice at this point. We’re in the situation that we’re in. We just have to come out on Thursday and get the win and move forward.
[On the coaching staff giving him the start] I just think he’s looking to mix things up a little bit, and I think we responded. We had a great first (period) and had some great opportunities to put the puck in the back of the net. Tuukka was great tonight and made some big saves.
Calvin de Haan
[Thoughts on the loss] I don’t know. I’m kind of at a loss for words right now. I thought we were the better team tonight, but that’s hockey. We lost that game, and it’s all about wins and losses at this time of year.
We love playing in front of this crowd, and they bring a lot of energy for us. I thought we had a really good first period. It just stinks.
[On Rask’s big night] It’s frustrating, but we just have to stick to our game plan and go from there. We had some good opportunities tonight, but he made some big saves for them. I thought we played a pretty good hockey game, overall.
[McElhinney] played great. Our goalies have been rocks all year, and we have nothing but good things to say about them. Curtis gave us a chance to win and that’s all we can ask of him.
We believe in this group. We have a really good young team here. Just gotta win four games in a row, it’s as simple as that.
I thought [we the Canes played their game]. I thought we carried the pace for most of the game. It sucks. That’s really the only way to put it. We lost the game, and now we have to win four (in a row).
I thought he played well. I don’t really know much about that position. You never really know when your name is going to be called, but he played and gave us a chance to win the game and that’s all you can ask. We just didn’t get enough for him.
It’s the start we wanted. We didn’t seem deflated, but I’m sure there were guys wishing they could get one, and anyone would wish that you got one there when you had the pressure going and making it tough on him and getting some chances. We had some power play opportunities, but again, nothing to show for it. We had a good first, but we just weren’t able to carry that over into the second. They kinda flipped it around and evened it up. Obviously, they took the lead with those goals. We just had to find a way to keep the pressure going and we didn’t have it there in the second. They got two and we weren’t able to bounce back.
Both, I guess. We had some looks that you’d like to see go in and some looks that weren’t as open or were just as open but he slid across and made the save. He’s been good. He’s been good all series, and he’s not making it easy on us. That’s to be expected. It’s the conference final and you expect the goalie to play well and he’s been doing that. It’s tough, but we have to find a way to get through that.
- Jaccob Slavin led all players on both teams by playing 28:50. The odd disparities in special teams had a lot to do with this, but Brind’Amour really shortened his bench in this one. Haydn Fleury took all of six shifts the entire game, and Lucas Wallmark only played 7:38.
- Williams was quick to shoot down any thought that Krug had knocked him off his game, but that was the second game in a row where the Bruins successfully goaded the normally even-keeled captain into a bizarre display of petulance. He cleaned it up in the final 40 minutes, but you have to wonder whether, if it was another player, he would have been stapled to the bench for at least a few shifts in the second period.
- The only four players held without a shot for the Hurricanes were Fleury, McGinn (who missed the net on one), Greg McKegg (ditto) and, oddly, Teravainen. Two attempts for 86; one blocked, and one infamously missed the net.
- Lost in the frustration of how good Rask was tonight was that McElhinney was every bit his equal. 29 saves on 31 shots sells it short a bit; he was outstanding, especially during the second period when he faced an 18-shot barrage, and it was only de Haan’s accidental redirection with his glove that proved to be the difference in the game.
- The Hurricanes are not practicing tomorrow, but Brind’Amour and a few players will meet the media tomorrow around lunchtime.