Just about an hour and a half before the start of game three between the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins, Boston announced that starting goaltender Tuukka Rask had opted out of the NHL bubble in Toronto. That news didn’t deter his teammates as back-up Jaroslav Halak stopped 29 shots en route to a 3-1 win that gave the Bruins a 2-1 edge in the best-of-seven series.
A statement released by Rask and the team said in part “I want to be with my teammates competing, but at this moment there are more things important than hockey in my life, and that is being with my family…”
The Hurricanes peppered Halak in the first period, putting 15 shots on the veteran keeper. Early on Halak was bolstered both by his post and some fortuitous bounces, none more so than when a Jaccob Slavin slapshot from the blue line was redirected in front of Halak by Jordan Martinook. Halak was able to get his glove on the puck as it trickled towards, but not over, the goal line.
Boston jumped ahead just:14 seconds into the second period. With the Bruins on a carried over power-play, a double-minor High-Sticking on Trevor van Riemsdyck, Charlie Coyle batted a Brad Marchand rebound past Petr Mrazek. The goal was Coyle’s second of the series. Marchand and David Krejci were credited with the assists. Krejci continued his stellar post-season play by purposely shooting the puck wide off of the end boards where Marchand was able to one-time the puck on Mrazek who made the initial stop before Coyle swatted the puck out of mid-air for the 1-0 lead.
Bruins forward Par Lindholm was sent off at 19:31 of the second for Cross-Checking. With a fresh sheet of ice to open the third, the Hurricanes stormed into the period but were a bit too aggressive and unable to keep the puck in the Bruins zone. This led to a Coyle and Sean Kuraly two-on-one short-handed bid. Coyle hit the brakes and slid the puck through the legs of defenseman Sami Vatanen to a streaking Kuraly who tipped the puck past Mrazek for the 2-0 lead.
The lone blight on Halak’s first playoff win since 2014-15 came with Anders Bjork off for Tripping. The Slovakian keeper attempted to clear a dump by Carolina’s Morgan Geekie. Halak stopped the puck behind the Bruins goal but didn’t see a fore-checking Nino Niederreiter coming from the left side. As Halak wristed, the puck Niederreiter, all alone in front of the net gloved the puck down and easily poked it home cutting the lead to 2-1. The unassisted power play goal was Niederreiter’s first of the playoffs.
Carolina had new life with 14:30 left to go but Halak and his mates were up to the challenge. As they did in the second period, the Bruins contained the Carolina attack before it could gain momentum. Making matters worse for the ‘Canes was the loss of superstar forward Andrei Svechnikov, who was hurt in a tussle with Zdeno Chara in front of the Boston goal. Marchand sealed the win with an empty-net goal at 19:29.
“I didn’t think we were poor in the first 20,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy after the game. “We weren’t on top of our game, hands were a little behind, whether that’s a 12:00 o’clock start or just Carolina coming out with a little more zip. Listen, we addressed it before the game that we needed to be solid away from the puck, so I think our guys were thinking defense to let Jaro (Halak) get his feet under him. It didn’t work out exactly that way, there was a lot of shots, luckily from the outside, but then we got going. I think the power play goal obviously helps, it always gives you life in these close games in the playoffs you know. Carolina plays a very good defensive game, so I think that got us going a little bit and after that I thought we were the better team and end up getting the win and I thought we were full value for it.”
“We had a good start. First period was fine. I thought we were better, we had a couple of good looks, a post and one real close to being in if not in. I can’t see it going in, it was right there for us. And then we just – we let off the gas a little,” said Hurricane coach Rod Brind’Amour. “That team is too good. If you give them an inch they’re taking a mile. And then they got their game going and we never got to our game, the rest of the game. It was a miracle that we were still in it by a goal toward the end.”
The two teams meet again on Monday night at 8:00 pm EST at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.