The Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins renewed NHL Playoff acquaintances in Toronto on Wednesday morning in typical 2020 fashion. It took a Patrice Bergeron snap-shot at 1:13 of the second overtime to break the 3-3 deadlock. Bergeron buried a David Pastrnak pass past Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek giving the Bruins a 1-0 series lead. Bergeron’s goal, his first of the 2020 playoffs, set a club record for post-season overtime game-winners. It was the fourth of his career.
“We were confident. We’re a confident group, confident line,” said Bergeron. “I think we got better as we went on in the round-robin. Obviously you want more, you want to keep getting better and taking the next step, especially we thought that tonight was a really important game, starting round one, so we had to put whatever was behind us in the past and get some rhythm going.”
And going they did. In the previous four games, only Bergeron had two points. Today they combined for six.
The rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference final was postponed from the previous night when the Columbus Blue Jackets lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the fifth overtime period. The goal came at 9:22 PM EST, by that point the NHL had already decided to start the opening game of the Carolina-Boston series at 11:00 am.
The Bruins appear to have used the four-game round-robin more as a “pre-season” than as trying to secure the best possible seeding for the playoffs. Boston went 0-4 in their games leading up to the first-round match-up against a scorching hot Hurricanes team. The ‘Canes had swept the New York Rangers in their best-of-five play-in series. Carolina came into the game having played their last game a week ago.
Neither team looked rusty in the opening period. Carolina struck first when defenseman Joel Edmundson, who was trailing the play, beat Tuukka Rask five-hole with a slap-shot from the slot. Edmundson’s first goal of the playoffs was assisted by Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho at 13:02.
Boston evened the score at 17:45 when Pastrnak banged home a Brad Marchand cross-ice feed along the Carolina goal-line. The Bruins top-line had not really clicked until this game. Bergeron won the face-off in the Hurricanes zone back to a streaking Marchand who skated around the circle and found Pastrnak just outside the Carolina crease.
The Bruins took the lead at 4:38 of the second period when Charlie Coyle wristed a loose puck past a sprawling Mrazek. The goal came with some controversy as the Carolina goalie felt he had the puck tied up long enough for play to be whistled dead. But the relentless play of Brett Ritchie knocked the puck loose. Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour challenged the goal but lost the appeal.
Carolina would end up a man down after losing the challenge, but that didn’t deter the Hurricanes. Just eleven seconds in Brock McGinn picked-off a careless Pastrnak pass at the Carolina blue-line and streaked in on Rask. He beat the Finnish goalie with a backhander glove side. The unassisted goal was McGinn’s first of the post-season.
Once again the Bruins took the lead, this time on a David Krejci wrister just:59 seconds into the period. Krejci corralled an Andrej Kase rebound to the left of Mrazek, deked the goalie near-side, and beat him at the far post making it 3-2.
The Hurricanes picked up their game and took it to the Bruins after falling behind for the second time. But once again the resilient Carolina squad tied the game when defenseman Haydn Fleury floated a wrist shot from the point past a screened Rask at 9:49 of the third. The 24-year-old’s goal was his first point in 13 career playoff games.
Marchand, Pastrnk, and Bergeron connected again when it mattered most. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy spoke of the trio’s chemistry after the game.
“These guys are battle-tested,” said the fourth-year coach. “We’ve got a lot of trust in those guys…Pasta (Pastrnk) missed a lot of what teams went through – the training camp. Even though they’ve played together for a long time, it’s been four months and change. We knew there would be a little bit of – I don’t know if rust is the right word. We knew it would take some time for them to make some little plays. And overtime is them. The faceoff play was them. They missed a little bit of that in the round-robin. Today, they know that there is a little more at stake as well. Put those two things together, those two factors together and we knew they’d be there and competing. And competing at a high level. And when they do that, they’re so talented and smart that they know things are going to happen for them and they did.”
For his part, Brind’Amour was gracious to the Bruins but not towards the referees.
“Anytime you lose in the playoffs, especially in overtime, it’s obviously a stinger,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s what I thought was going to happen, unfortunately. I knew they were going to play a good hockey game. Knew we were going to get the best of the Bruins. I thought they were really good, and I was afraid we were going to be a little sluggish and we were. That’s to their credit. They played a better game than we did overall. I thought we got back into it a little, but we weren’t good enough to win that game.”
“He comes to me and says pick one, I’m like, well it’s one of the two. There’s absolutely no way that can be a goal,” added Brind’Amour of the officials “He’s putting it on me to pick it, well you tell me what you’re calling. You’re calling he had it? Then it’s a “expletive” goalie interference. If you’re saying he didn’t have it? You’re not telling me what call you’re making and I have to pick one? Then they go upstairs and say “Oh, he had possession”? It’s horsesh*t. This is where the league is a joke.”
Overall the Bruins carried the play, outshooting the ‘Canes 40-28. Boston also had the commanding lead in the face-off circle winning 55% of the draws. Neither team connected on the power play, combining to go 0-7 (BOS 0-4). The two teams meet again on Thursday evening at 8:00 pm EST in Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.