The Boston Bruins stunned the hockey world two hours before Saturday’s Game 3 when they announced that goaltender Tuukka Rask was leaving the bubble and returning to Boston to be with his family. It was a shocking announcement, one that would leave the defending conference champions without a cornerstone player.
By the end of Game 3, the Carolina Hurricanes had joined them with an unexpected, shocking absence.
An apparent knee or ankle injury to Andrei Svechnikov late in the third period cast a pall over an already dispiriting game. The Hurricanes lost 3-1, giving the Bruins a 2-1 series lead, but the loss felt much more significant than just the result of the game.
When Brad Marchand headed to the penalty box on the game’s first shift for tripping Sebastian Aho, the Hurricanes had a great opportunity to strike first. And they nearly did, with Aho ringing the post to Jaroslav Halak’s left. But that power play went by the wayside with no damage done, and the longer things went on the more frustrated Carolina became, outshooting the Bruins 15-7 in the first period to no avail.
Halak had a few dangerous moments to work out of, including another Aho shot that hit the crossbar and a near-goal with three minutes left in the first period where he covered the puck while his glove slid backward into the net. The play was ruled no goal on the ice, a call that was upheld on review despite the fact that Jordan Staal knocked the puck in after the whistle.
Late in the first period, Trevor van Riemsdyk’s stick came up and hit former Hurricane Joakim Nordstrom in the face, earning van Riemsdyk a double minor. The Hurricanes killed the first half, but the Bruins still had two minutes remaining on fresh ice when the second period began, and they made it count. An initial shot by Marchand was kicked out by Petr Mrazek into the air, and Charlie Coyle took a baseball swing to knock the rebound past Mrazek and into the net.
That was the start of a forgettable period for Carolina, one in which the Hurricanes were outshot 20-8 and did little more than watch shift after shift of Bruins attackers lay siege to Mrazek. The team’s only saving grace was that they somehow came out of the period only down that one goal, rather than by the three or four that their play warranted. Mrazek stood tall time and time again, bailing his teammates out and needing someone - anyone - to give him a hand.
The Hurricanes had an opening late in the period when Par Lindholm sat for tripping, leaving them 90 seconds of a man advantage when the third period began. But instead, it was the Bruins who doubled their lead while shorthanded. Vincent Trocheck pinched too deep at the blue line attempting to keep a play alive, and that sprung Coyle and Sean Kuraly on a 2-on-1 with Sami Vatanen back to defend. Coyle’s shot was just barely grazed by Kuraly and beat Mrazek.
Again, like in the second period, the Bruins were relentless, tallying seven unanswered shots in the first five minutes of the third. But the Hurricanes were unexpectedly given life when Halak, who had a safe option behind the net to hand the puck to while the Bruins were killing a penalty, instead tried to go up the middle where it was intercepted by Nino Niederreiter and backhanded into the vacated net. Out of nowhere, the Hurricanes suddenly had a chance.
And then, disaster struck. With the Hurricanes still struggling to maintain any consistent forecheck, Rod Brind’Amour reunited the top line of Aho, Andrei Svechnikov and Teuvo Teravainen, and they immediately went to work on a lengthy shift in the Boston zone. But it was cut short when Svechnikov, entangled with Zdeno Chara in front of the Bruins’ net, awkwardly twisted his leg when it looked like his skate caught a rut in the ice. He was helped off the ice unable to put any weight on his right leg.
Rod Brind’Amour pulled Mrazek with two minutes left, and the Hurricanes got a couple of looks on Halak, none of them all that dangerous. Marchand ended it with an empty netter, tapping it into the net from a few feet out in front of a furiously backchecking Vatanen, sending the Hurricanes into an off day where they have many more questions and few obvious answers.