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Special Teams leads Hurricanes to victory over league leading Bruins

It was a dominant 60-minute performance by the Hurricanes as they defeated the top spot Bruins, 4-1 Sunday evening at PNC Arena.

NHL: JAN 29 Bruins at Hurricanes Photo by Katherine Gawlik/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

So often when the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins go head-to-head, special teams plays a crucial role.

Turn back the clock however many years you want and the story always seems to play out the same way and tonight was no different.

The final penalty count for the match was 12 and 10 of those infractions led to power play opportunities. Four for the Hurricanes, six for the Bruins.

And lo and behold, the winner when the final horn sounded was the team that won that special teams battle.

“It seems like the same story every time we play these guys,” said head coach Rod Brind’Amour. “No matter how hard we try to not take penalties, we end up with five or six a night, which isn’t good, but we’ve got a lot of practice against them. The penalty kill was great tonight and it was the difference in the game.”

Carolina killed off all six of the infractions called against them — even scoring shorthanded, with Jordan Staal sealing the victory on an empty net — but no moment was bigger than the sequence of three kills in succession to start the second period.

The Canes were holding onto just a 1-0 lead at that point and the constant parade to the penalty box was just asking for trouble.

“You’ve gotta be ready for that,” said defenseman Brent Burns who was playing in his 1,300th game. “They’re obviously deadly on the power play, but it’s just four guys committing to it. A lot of communicating and just working hard. It was fun.”

But the Hurricanes PKers came up big, allowing just four shots on net, and at the conclusion of the third penalty, they drew a power play themselves, which drew blood.

“You could kind of feel the momentum building as the game went on,” Burns said. “You start gaining confidence on it. It’s a good feeling. The PK is a real important part of the game. It can build a lot of confidence and momentum for your team and it definitely did that tonight.”

On the ensuing power play, Martin Necas took a shot off target that ricocheted off of the endboards and directly to Paul Stastny at the other side of the net and the veteran made no mistake in shoveling it in.

“The pressure down ice was awesome,” said netminder Frederik Andersen, who made 24 saves in the win. “The guys deserve a huge amount of credit for that. We didn’t really give them the opportunities to set up until maybe the third. That was big.”

The power play goal also proved to be the game-winner as a Taylor Hall chest redirection managed to get the Bruins onto the board, but that would be the only goal they’d get.

Sebastian Aho got the party going midway through the first period, with yet another steal and score goal, this time victimizing the Bruins’ top scorer, David Pastrnak.

Aho has added another level to his game as of late, mostly the ability to finish his breakaway chances. His latest score gives him seven goals in just his last four games.

Seth Jarvis would push the Canes’ lead to 3-0 at the opening of the third period, in a similar style to Aho’s goal, with a steal and score breakaway as well.

Jarvis had tried to chip the puck past Boston defenseman Brandon Carlo, but despite the Bruins’ big man intercepting it, Jarvis stuck with it, poking the puck back off Carlo’s stick and through his legs, setting himself up for the breakaway.

The sophomore forward cut across the crease, waited out Linus Ullmark and tucked it upstairs off the backhand.

Staal grabbed the final goal of the game, manhandling Pastrnak up the ice to seal the victory with a shorthanded, empty-netter.

“It was a good effort throughout the lineup,” Aho said. “The PK was obviously huge, Freddie was pretty solid in the net, and I actually didn’t mind the power play at all. We had some looks there too, so a good game overall.”

Carolina will be back in action Tuesday night against the LA Kings for their final home game before the All-Star break.