RALEIGH, N.C. — The Boston Bruins took the punches from the Carolina Hurricanes in the first period and stayed on their feet each time, their goalie preventing them from getting knocked out early.
It was an expected and aggressive pushback from the Hurricanes, a desperate team feeding off the energy of its home crowd. It was still jolting to the Bruins, sobering to say the least, after the way they dominated and won by four goals in Boston two days earlier.
And yet, it didn’t matter. The Bruins weren’t even bruised by the Hurricanes’ 20-minute onslaught. They didn’t give up a goal. They went into the first intermission tied, slate wiped clean, energized by the outcome instead of dismantled.
Then they responded by moving one step closer to delivering the knockout blow in the Eastern Conference Final with a 2-1 win in Game 3 at PNC Arena on Tuesday.
Boston leads the best-of-7 series 3-0. It can win the series in Game 4 at Carolina on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
“We didn’t play a good period at all in the first, we know that,” Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. “We’ve been a resilient team all year, been able to bounce back from bad periods or bad breaks, bad goals or whatever it is. We were able to do that again and it paid off for us.”
The Bruins were outshot 20-6 in the first period. Carolina had four power plays, including a 5-on-3 for 45 seconds that featured one shot on goal. The Hurricanes still had 12 shots on goal on the power play in the period.
Boston goalie Tuukka Rask was the difference. He made 10 saves in the first 5:48, including four on Carolina’s first power play that started 55 seconds into the game. Three of those saves came during a two-second sequence near the end of the man-advantage.
“Such a calming presence for us,” Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy said of Rask. “We gave up more scoring chances than we would have liked, but Tuukka stood tall for us.”
Boston coach Bruce Cassidy was angry with how his team started the period and hated the finish, when the Bruins accomplished nothing on a power play that was the result of Carolina captain Justin Williams taking a run at defenseman Torey Krug and catching him with a high elbow.
“I wasn’t particularly happy with our compete level,” Cassidy said. “I wasn’t particularly happy that Torey Krug got ran two or three times, puts us on a power play and we go out and we’re nonchalant on it. That’s not how you play for each other.
“It just wasn’t how we generally play. We’re typically harder on pucks, more structured.”
But so what, right? They could say that because it was still 0-0 after 20 minutes.
Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said there was a sense in the dressing room during the intermission that they had just taken the Hurricanes’ best punch, and it didn’t hurt.
“For that game, we felt that way,” Bergeron said.
It was a sense of relief, of motivation, a feeling of if that’s the best the Hurricanes have, it’s not going to be enough.
“We said, ‘It’s a 0-0 game and it wasn’t pretty, so now let’s wake up and let’s be better and turn it on in the second,’ ” Bergeron said. “That goal from [Chris Wagner] really got us going.”
Wagner scored 1:21 into the second period, a fourth-line goal that looked pretty enough to be from the first line with a forced turnover, smart positioning by center Sean Kuraly and some nifty tic-tac-toe passing between Kuraly, Joakim Nordstrom and Wagner.
“That line scored a goal by playing the right way,” Cassidy said.
It got the whole team to start playing that way too; Marchand scored on the power play 5:07 later to make it 2-0.
Carolina got one back when defenseman Calvin de Haan did the near impossible, beating Rask through the five-hole on an unscreened, low slap shot from the left circle at 13:48 of the second.
But the Bruins’ response early in the second period after surviving the first was all they needed to get to the brink of the reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the third time this decade (2011, 2013).
They outshot the Hurricanes 18-6 in the second period and 25-16 across the final 40 minutes.
After giving Carolina four power plays in the first period, the Bruins gave the Hurricanes one in the final two, an interference penalty by defenseman Matt Grzelcyk at 5:38 of the third period. Rask preserved the 2-1 lead with a difficult save on Jordan Staal‘s redirection in the slot and a left pad save on Nino Niederreiter‘s long shot.
Wagner sacrificed himself to block a blast from Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk with 5:04 remaining, catching him in the right arm, an injury that forced him out of the game and likely puts his availability for Game 4 in jeopardy too.
They killed the final two minutes, all with the Hurricanes skating 6-on-5, by blocking three shots and clearing the puck down the ice whenever possible.
“I guess the moral of the story is we got through the first period tonight, however you want to describe it,” Cassidy said, “and off we went after that.”
Originally published at https://www.nhl.com/news/boston-bruins-survive-sluggish-first-period-defeat-hurricanes-in-game-3/c-307398294