BOSTON — The Carolina Hurricanes knew that the Boston Bruins would present a challenge that they hadn’t seen thus far in the 2019 NHL playoffs, their skill and speed combination providing a formidable challenge. For 40 minutes, the Hurricanes looked like they had the answers.
Then the third period came along, and some earlier missed opportunities combined with questionable officiating decisions to hand the Hurricanes a frustrating 5-2 defeat, snapping a six-game winning streak and dropping them in a 1-0 hole in the Eastern Conference Final.
Perhaps it was no surprise that after a six-day break, the Bruins came out for the first few shifts playing inspired hockey that seemed to have the Hurricanes back on their toes a bit. Their effort was rewarded 2:55 into the game when Steven Kampfer, in the lineup to replace the suspended Charlie McAvoy, took advantage of lackadaisical defending from Justin Faulk and Micheal Ferland to pick his spot and score his first goal of the playoffs, and his fourth when including the regular season - two of which came against Carolina.
But it didn’t take long for the Hurricanes to equalize. Sean Kuraly took a roughing penalty 44 seconds after Kampfer opened the scoring, and three seconds later Sebastian Aho tipped in an Andrei Svechnikov shot from the left point to tie the game once again.
Slowly, the Hurricanes grew into the game, helped by the fact that the Bruins looked like they threw everything on the ice in the first ten minutes and the fresher legs of the rested Hurricanes eventually took over. The Bruins’ cause was not helped when Zdeno Chara took an Aho wrist shot off the ankle while killing a penalty, sending him to the room for the remainder of the period. He did return to start the second, although clearly favoring his injured right leg.
The Hurricanes then took things to another level, peppering Tuukka Rask with shot after shot. The Bruins goaltender was up for every shot, but he then beat himself to give the Hurricanes the lead. Greg McKegg was driving the net on the left wing, and he took a shot that bounced off Rask’s back and was back-heeled into the net by the goaltender as McKegg was pushed into the net by Kampfer. The crowd was incensed, but there were no challenges from either the Bruins or the war room.
The Hurricanes had plenty of chances to take a two-goal lead, including a Williams chance that was robbed by Rask, a Brett Pesce shot off the crossbar, and a Brock McGinn shorthanded chance that was tipped wide of an open net. The Bruins looked solid on a late-period power play, but couldn’t dent Mrazek, who made 23 saves in the game.
They got to him to start the third, though. With Jordan Staal in the box for boarding, the Bruins’ top-ranked power play struck, Marcus Johansson taking advantage of Calvin de Haan’s inadvertent block of Brad Marchand’s shot. Fifteen seconds later, Dougie Hamilton was sent to the box for an exceptionally questionable roughing penalty, while Kuraly somehow avoided a penalty for blindsiding Svechnikov in the neutral zone.
It only took the Boston power play 13 seconds to take the lead right back, this time through Patrice Bergeron. Rod Brind’Amour called his timeout, clearly looking to calm some frazzled nerves on the Carolina bench, and at the same time stem the bleeding.
Once the Bruins took the lead, they went into lockdown mode, denying anything in front of Rask repeatedly, allowing him to add to his tally of 29 saves on the evening. Teuvo Teravainen had the best chance, firing wide from the slot with six minutes left, but the Hurricanes were left to fend for scraps in front of a resurgent Bruins defense.
Brind’Amour pulled Mrazek with 2:30 to go but the gamble didn’t pay off. Charlie Coyle hit the empty net from 100 feet away to seal the game with 2:13 to go. And then, for good measure, off the ensuing faceoff Teravainen turned the puck over and handed Chris Wagner a breakaway that he converted to give the Bruins a 5-2 win and leave the Hurricanes with plenty of questions and two days to think about the answers.
They Said It
There’s no point in commenting [on the officiating]. There were penalties both ways, I thought, called and not called. I don’t want to get into the officiating. [Hamilton] was playing with an edge. We all were. Guys were trying to be engaged. Maybe he took it too far. I haven’t even looked at them. I was as frustrated as everybody on some of the calls, but you’ve got to kill them. If you take a penalty, you’ve got to kill it.
For 20 minutes, we were [good]. Our second period was fine, we got skating. The first period we came out slow. Third period, obviously the penalties. We were smacked right on our heels right from the start, and we never recovered. It took all the momentum from us, six minutes right away killing penalties. We had a couple good chances near the end, didn’t execute very well on the 6-on-5.
I don’t know how much [Ferland] played, he had been out for so long. He had some chances, but he took a penalty - that was the one I had a hard time with. It didn’t seem like too much. [Mrazek] was fine. We left him out to dry there at the end, but I thought he was solid.
We’re not going to win if we don’t play better than that. We had spurts, but that’s not going to be good enough, I don’t think during the regular season, certainly not at this time of year. We’ll regroup and try to get better for the next game.
We just got in a little bit of penalty trouble. They have a good power play. A couple of bounces went their way, they capitalized, and that was that. We were right there in the third period, in a 2-1 game, we’re up and we haven’t really played our best hockey. We just have to lock it down better and get back it on Sunday.
It’s the way it goes. Obviously, like I said, we got into a little bit of penalty trouble. I didn’t see much with the penalties, but we have to try to lock it down when we can, and we didn’t do that in the third.
If you’d asked us before the game, heading into the third up 2-1, we’d have taken it. They came out strong in the third, a couple breaks here and there, and that’s it. We were right there and I don’t feel like we played our best hockey. We definitely have to stay out of the box; they have a great power play, and they got some pretty skilled guys. I think if we can keep our feet moving in their zone and generate chances, we’ll be fine.
A couple penalties too many against that good power play. It was right there for us. We need to learn from this and come back on Sunday. Of course we need to trust that we can be better. We just have to stay out of the box.
First, a great faceoff win by Jordan, then an unreal pass by Svech to the backdoor and I just tipped it in. We’ve been in this situation before, so it’s good that we have that experience.
Not much else to say. The game’s done now, there’s nothing you an do about it now. We were playing, not a bad game, but had a lead in the third, took some penalties, gave them the lead. Tough to come back from those.
[The fact that this was called tighter than a normal playoff game, do you think it was tighter than that?] I’m not going to comment on the refs. [Were the penalties undisciplined or unfortunate?] I didn’t think they were penalties, so neither. [Did you get an explanation?] No.
For sure it stings. I think obviously we know we can be better, but it stings when you lose like that for sure. We know how good they are obviously, there’s a lot of talent on there, and you can’t take penalties is the biggest thing. Tonight we did, and it bit us in the butt.
- That was as close to a textbook Bruins execution as you’ll see. It’s what they do. It was surgical. They knew that the Hurricanes were back on their heels, and they struck quickly. Once they got the lead, they locked it down in solid fashion.
- The Hurricanes, on the other hand, let the moment get to them. Hamilton and Brind’Amour didn’t come right out and say it, but it was obvious that the officiating was in their heads and it cost them. They have to know that they will get no favors in this series, and the sooner they realize that the better.
- In a lot of ways, this felt like Game 2 of the Islanders series, just with the roles reversed. The Bruins were not the better team for the entire game, but they made it count at crunch time, and they sapped the Hurricanes’ resolve.
- I’m not sure what Ferland brought to the table tonight that Patrick Brown wouldn’t have brought. I think Brown comes back in on Sunday at Ferland’s expense. I think Rod had the right idea because a fully engaged Ferland in this series would be a real weapon that the Hurricanes don’t have otherwise, but if he’s not fully engaged - and he wasn’t tonight - then why bother?
- Rask was really, really good tonight. I think it gets lost a bit in the shuffle of the missed chances that went begging for the Hurricanes in the second period, but he did his job: he kept the Bruins in the game until the offense woke up and gave him some support.
- No official word from the team, but I would imagine they’ll be off tomorrow and practicing Saturday.