The Carolina Hurricanes had their first slip up of the postseason Friday night in TD Garden, falling 4-2 to the Bruins as Boston narrowed its series deficit from 2-0 to 2-1.
The Canes certainly didn’t have their best game, particularly on special teams, as the Bruins completely turned the tide of the first two games to regain their life in the first-round series.
About last night:
Special teams suffer
With a league-best penalty kill and top-10 power play during the regular season, the Carolina Hurricanes didn’t often lose the special teams matchup.
In the 82-game regular season, the Canes allowed more power play goals than they scored just 14 times. Carolina went 3-11 in those 14 games.
In the first two round of this series, the Canes outscored the Bruins on the power play in both.
But Friday night, the Canes’ special teams absolutely faltered. Boston scored two of its three goals with the man advantage and even added another while shorthanded, as the Bruins took advantage of six Carolina penalties in big, big ways.
“Obviously the special teams battle is what cost us the game,” said Jaccob Slavin. “You give a team so many power plays, they have one extra guy out there. Something is bound to happen. Obviously they have a good power play, too. We’ve got to make sure that we are staying disciplined and not taking certain penalties. At the same time, our power play has got to be better.”
The penalty kill, in complete fairness, wasn’t that terrible despite the two goals allowed. The first PPG goal allowed came after the Canes had successfully killed off 1:31 of 5-on-3 action but just before the second penalty had been fully killed off. The second PPG was a lapse, as Taylor Hall got a tap-in on the backdoor.
The power play though was pretty bad. In 10 minutes of time with the man advantage, the Hurricanes managed just three shots for. The Bruins had four. And while the Hurricanes had some scoring chances, they simply couldn’t convert anything on the power play.
“They’re a good team, but we’re not executing very well,” said Rod Brind’Amour. “The second unit has been fine. They’re getting their chances and looks. But the top guys have to be better. It’s simple.”
It’s obviously easier said than done, but it’s not rocket science: win on special teams and you’ve got a pretty good shot to win the game. It’s something the Canes have preached. It’s something the numbers support.
The special teams were pretty good in games one and two for the Hurricanes, but it was the reason game three went the other way.
Another thing that is easier said than done but makes all the difference is getting to the net front.
Both of Carolina’s goals Friday night came with traffic in front of Jeremy Swayman. The first, scored by Vincent Trocheck, came after a heavy rebound that Trocheck helped create with the screen on a Brendan Smith shot.
The Canes’ second goal was scored from far by Jaccob Slavin, though it was helped mightily by Jordan Staal in the shooting lane. While not exactly net front, Staal got in the way of the puck and gave Swayman more to think about.
Carolina also had a lot of success in games one in two when it was able to create that traffic and cause some chaos in the crease. It’s what every team is trying to do, but the importance has been on full display so far this series.
Nothing has changed
While Friday night’s loss is obviously a disappointment, any in the playoffs is, it doesn’t really change where things stands.
When you have home ice in the playoffs and handle business at home, the big goal on the two-game road trip is simply to split. That’s still possible for the Hurricanes, who will hopefully have Antti Raanta back for Sunday’s game in Boston.
The Canes still have the series lead. They still have yet to lose at home. The situation hasn’t really changed that much.
Sure, the Hurricanes can’t sweep. But if they can fix the woes on special teams and win a game on Sunday, they are exactly where they would have wanted to be heading back home.