Well, that was … a lot. For two periods, things looked great for the Hurricanes in game four of their first-round series against the Boston Bruins. The Canes carried a 2-0 lead into the third period, and then everything went to hell in a handbasket, as the saying goes.
Or, as Rod Brind’Amour put it, everything that possibly could go wrong did. Boston scored four unanswered goals in under seven minutes. The Bruins outshot the Canes 16-2 in the final frame, with Carolina not recording its first shot until Teuvo Teravainen made it 4-3 with 1:27 to play. That’s right, for 18:33 of the final frame, the Canes could not record a single shot on goal.
“Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong, but it’s not even the score, it’s how we played that period, that’s really disturbing for me,” Brind’Amour said. “I’ve got to have my guys better ready to go in the third for such a crucial game in our season, and I didn’t.”
While the only thing that matters this time of year is the result, and there was plenty of bad tonight, there was some good too.
Let’s take a look at the positives to take away, and what went horribly, horribly wrong in the final 20 minutes.
Justin Williams arrives
It had been, simply put, a quiet postseason for Justin Williams so far. Coming in, he had yet to record a point, and had been invisible on the ice for long stretches.
That changed in this game, as Williams netted the Canes the all-important first goal with a shot from the faceoff circle.
Justin Williams opens the scoring. He rips the puck through traffic in front, which included Air Gardiner. Hurricanes have a 1-0 lead in game four against the Bruins. Gardiner and Vincent Trocheck get the assists. pic.twitter.com/ZRGjjIVLo2— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) August 18, 2020
Quality leap from Gardiner here too.
Williams getting on the board is big, because, especially with Andrei Svechnikov out, the Hurricanes are going to need a lot more production from a player with a storied playoff career if they’re going to pull off the comeback.
First line Marty, and a strong second period
There was much discussion about Jordan Martinook playing on the first line with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen going into the game. Most of it wasn’t positive.
But Martinook played well, and gave the Canes a 2-0 lead in the second period with a shot off the rush that brought back memories of former first-line spark plug Chad LaRose.
After a huge penalty kill, Jordan Martinook fires a shot by Jaroslav Halak. Sebastian Aho hit him with the pass entering the offensive zone, and the Hurricanes have a 2-0 lead in the second period of game four. pic.twitter.com/Oj2IGa3Uym— Brett Finger (@brett_finger) August 18, 2020
The goal notwithstanding, Martinook seemed to settle in and understand the game he needed to play with the Finns, crashing the net and waiting for the opportunities those two created.
And overall, the second period was good. Following a gutsy penalty kill (Jaccob Slavin, Jordan Staal, Brock McGinn and Dougie Hamilton were on the ice for all of it) that led to Martinook’s goal, the Canes really started to tilt the ice.
The Canes were actually outshot 11-10 in the middle frame but numbers don’t tell the story there, as the team picked up numerous quality chances to make it 3-0, including a near-miss from Martin Necas on a gorgeous feed from Nino Niederreiter.
As it turned out, letting Boston hang around would prove to be problematic.
Everything that could go wrong went wrong
Yeah, Brind’Amour wasn’t wrong on that one. The final frame actually started well for Carolina, as the Canes killed the remainder of a second-period penalty to Dougie Hamilton.
Boston was skating downhill the whole frame though, and Jake DeBrusk broke the ice with 12:34 to play when James Reimer, who’d had a good game up to that point decided to do … this.
If anyone has an explanation for exactly what Reimer may have been thinking there, please feel free to comment below or send me a Tweet/direct message/email/messenger pigeon/smoke signal with your best guess. I got nothing.
That goal gave the Bruins even more life, and the Canes had more wind knocked out of their sails when Jordan Staal exited the game after taking a hit up high from Charlie McAvoy. Brind’Amour did not have an update on Staal after the game.
Not long after that, predictably, Boston tied the game.
Things just kept unraveling from there, as Williams turned the puck over at the offensive blue line, then Brad Marchand got behind the Canes’ D to score the go-ahead goal.
“You have to take ownership of it and I certainly take ownership of that third goal,” Williams said. “Being in the league as long as I have, you can’t turn the puck over at that juncture especially when you haven’t had a shot all period . Ended up with a breakaway the other way and I have to take ownership of that. Really the whole period wasn’t what we’re accustomed to and we got it handed to us.”
DeBrusk added an insurance marker that would prove important ahead of Teravainen’s late tally.
A game that entered the third period with so much promise for the Hurricanes had turned into an unmitigated disaster, and an all-time collapse. The final numbers for the third period: 4-1 Bruins on the scoreboard, 16-2 Bruins on the shot counter.
It was probably the worst 20 minutes of hockey of the Rod Brind’Amour era.
“I want to make the people that support this organization proud of how we play,” Brind’Amour said. “I think we’ve done that for most of the time that I’ve been here. Today we didn’t. That’s the most disturbing thing for me. So we’ve got to pick the pieces up and make sure we put an effort forward that you can say ‘Hey, that’s how it should look and be proud of it.’ Win or lose, you’ve got to be proud of how you play, and that didn’t happen tonight.”
The Canes now face a tall task, needing to win three straight against the President’s Trophy Winners without Svechnikov, and possibly without Staal as well.
The Canes had plenty to like from their second period tonight, but that’s been the problem in this series, as the Canes have yet to put a full 60 minutes together. The only way Carolina has a shot against a team as good and deep as Boston is to be firing on all cylinders for an entire game.
That hasn’t happened yet, and if it doesn’t happen very soon, the Hurricanes’ stay in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs will be a short one.