By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — When trying to size up the Hurricanes and Bruins ahead of this Eastern Conference Final, the one area that jumped off the page was the disparity in special teams. The Bruins were great. The Hurricanes were not.READ MORE: Coronavirus In Massachusetts: Today's Developments
So, reasonable minds surmised that if the Bruins are to win this series and advance to the Cup Final, they would do so with a dominant showing on special teams.
Yet, sports don’t always play out the way most people think. And through two periods of hockey on Thursday, it was the Hurricanes who were dominant in the special teams department.
Carolina not only killed off two power plays, but they limited Boston to just two total shots on net in the four minutes with the man advantage. And on the flip side, the Hurricanes scored just 3 seconds into their first power play of the night, tying the score at 1-1 early in the first period. Considering the Canes entered this game with a dreadful 10.5 percent success rate on the power play, that type of execution was not expected.
The proverbial script had proverbially been flipped, and the Hurricanes were in position to steal home ice away from Boston in the opening 60 minutes of what should be a competitive series.
But in the opening minute of the third period, Jordan Staal thumped Chris Wagner into the end boards, taking a two-minute minor for boarding. The Bruins’ power play looked problematic, failing to get off a shot and surrendering a short-handed rush to Carolina. The under-performance continued.
That was until the latter part of that power play, when the unit awoke with some picture-perfect puck movement en route to a Marcus Johansson goal.
That goal tied the game at 2-2, and the Bruins’ power play wasn’t done yet.
Dougie Hamilton was sent to the box for roughing — he disagrees — and that’s where, as Jake DeBrusk would tell you, fate took control.
David Pastrnak tried to send the puck through the corner and around the Carolina net, but DeBrusk, who was down on the ice, accidentally blocked it. DeBrusk quickly climbed to his feet and delivered a cross-ice pass to Brad Marchand, who was on the doorstep. Instead of shooting, Marchand made a pass in tight to Patrice Bergeron.READ MORE: Stimulus Check Update: Is A Fourth Relief Payment Coming?
It wasn’t the best shot of Bergeron’s career, and it wasn’t the cleanest look. But it was good enough on this night to beat Petr Mrazek and give the Bruins a come-from-behind victory.
“The puck was bouncing, too, so I kind of tried to sauce it [to Marchand], to be honest with you, but it was kind of just meant to be,” DeBrusk explained. “If I tried that again, it wouldn’t happen. And I think it actually deflected off their defenseman’s stick, too. Went right to Marchy, and he gives to Bergy, and Bergy usually puts that shelf. I don’t think he gets full wood on it, and it goes in the net. I think that’s just playoff hockey. It was a big time to score that goal for us, and it was awesome to be a part of it.”
The two goals were scored just 28 seconds apart. Both were scored on the power play. And the Hurricanes never recovered.
“Well, obviously, yeah, they scored two goals and the crowd gets into it, they get a lead,” Hurricanes captain Justin Williams said. “That’s why [Rod Brind’Amour] took a timeout, calmed us down. We just weren’t able to equalize. … We didn’t get to what we wanted to get to. We were stopped a little bit in the neutral zone. We were just a little off, and when you’re a little off, you’re going to lose.”
In the 17:06 that remained in the game after Bergeron’s go-ahead goal, the Hurricanes mustered just five shots on net. Two of those five were sent toward Tuukka Rask from the neutral zone.
Just as many predicted, the entire game pivoted the moment that the Bruins’ power play began to execute. That power play is now 12-for-40, good for a 30 percent success rate. That’s far and away better than the remaining three teams still playing, with San Jose’s 18.5 percent success rate on the power play ranking second.
Couple that with Carolina’s penalty kill now sitting at a woeful 73.2 percent, and the Hurricanes are going to have to either avoid the penalty box altogether or hope that they can figure out a way to slow down Boston’s power play. If that doesn’t happen soon, it just might end up being a quick series.MORE NEWS: 'He Was My Motor, I Was His Heart': Rick Hoyt Remembers Father, Boston Marathon Icon