Trailing by two going into the final 20 minutes of play wasn’t enough to deter the Boston Bruins, who scored four goals in less than six minutes to take a commanding 3-1 series led over the Carolina Hurricanes. Jake DeBrusk scored two of the goals, the first of which gave the Bruins life. The second one would be the eventual game winner as Boston hung on for the 4-3 win.
The Hurricanes jumped out to a 1-0 lead at 9:17 of the first period when forward Justin Williams wristed a shot from the top of the left circle that beat Jaroslav Halak (16 saves) glove side. Williams retrieved a lose puck along the boards at the bottom of the circle, fed it to defenseman Jake Gardiner at the blue line, then took a quick return pass from Gardiner and fired a shot on net through traffic that Halak was unable to catch. The goal was Williams first of the post-season.
Carolina built on their lead in the middle frame when a streaking Jordan Martinook caught a Sebastian Aho pass and raced past Boston’s Matt Grzelcyk to wrist a shot by Halak at 12:08. The goal was Martinook’s second of the series.
Neither team fared well on the power play, with the ‘Canes going 0-1 and the Bruins going 0-3. However, the third power play chance for Boston, which came at 19:37 of the second period gave Boston momentum to open their torrid third period.
DeBrusk kicked off the comeback when he corralled an Ondrej Kase blue line to blue line pass, chipped the puck past defenseman Haydn Fleury, and beat a diving James Reimer (29 saves) to the left of the goal. Reimer had come out to try to beat DeBrusk to the puck but ended up toppling the young Bruins forward as he wristed the puck into the empty net at 12:34.
The play that summed up the game came just about a minute and a half later when Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy caught Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal with his head down just inside the Carolina zone. The 6′-0″, 208 lb. McAvoy used his rear-end and left-side to flatten the 6′-4″, 220 lb. center from Thunder Bay, Ont. Staal would leave the game.
Boston tied the game at 2-2 when defenseman Connor Clifton buried a Joakim Nordstrom pass past Reimer at 9:50. Clifton’s slap-shot beat the veteran goalie just inside the top left corner of the Carolina goal. The goal was Clifton’s first of the 2020 playoffs. Nordstrom and Chris Wagner were credited the assists.
Hurricanes bench boss Rod Brind’Amour used his time-out to try and settle his squad. It didn’t work. At 8:20 Bruins forward Brad Marchand gave Boston the 3-2 lead when he beat Reimer on a break-away. Torey Krug broke up the Carolina rush just inside the Bruins zone and fired an in-direct pass to Marchand just outside the ‘Canes zone. Marchand was already behind the Carolina defense and easily deked Reimer to slide the go-ahead goal through his legs.
Boston wasn’t done yet. DeBrusk notched his second tally of the night at 5:43 after his forechecking led Hurricanes center Martin Necas to turn the puck over to David Krejci along the boards just above the right circle. Krejci dished to Kase in the slot, who found a wide-open DeBrusk streaking along the goal line. DeBrusk wristed the puck up over Reimer for the eventual game winner.
“Anytime you can contribute in a win, it’s huge,” said third-year forward DeBrusk of his night. “Obviously, we’ve had some pretty good looks in the series. I just wanted to number one, try to find my game and just help the team. I kind of got lucky on the first one, I’d like to say, and a great play by my linemates on the second one. We rallied to win.”
Despite looking demoralized, the Hurricanes still had some fight left. With a face-off in the Bruins zone, Carolina pulled Reimer for the extra attacker. Carolina won the draw and after some quick zone passing Teuvo Teravainen back-handed a shot past Halak cutting the deficit to one with 1:27 to play.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy was pleased with his team’s play and singled out the 1-2 punch of the DeBrusk goal and McAvoy check.
“Well from my standpoint you know clearly [Jake] DeBrusk scoring, I mean we’re having a really tough time, specially five on five, so that started it for us,” said Cassidy. “Now we’re back in the game right, we got a chance. And then the McAvoy hit. I think we were playing and we were going to push and we were pushing, so obviously it helps us a lot, but I think it really demoralizes the other team. When one of your veteran players, a leader in your room, or really a respected player in this league, takes a good hard clean hit, like I said it affects your group. So it affected us positively and probably them in a negative manner. They lose a guy that’s a shutdown centerman and had been doing a real good job against Bergy’s line that game, so for us it really helped.”
“Yeah obviously he’s a guy that measures himself probably too much about just with his goal scoring,” said Cassidy about the 23-year-old DeBrusk. “He can bring other things and hound pucks and make plays and be a net-front presence on the power play, we’ve changed that up a little bit, but there’s other ways you can contribute, especially in the playoffs. But we need some goals, let’s face it, we’re having a tough time, missed some open nets early on and five on five scoring had been a few games. So good for him, happy for him. Sometimes he gets streaky, so hopefully this sets him off.”
“We just we weren’t ready to continue to do that dig in that we needed to do, little battles. They threw everything at us and we didn’t have an answer,” said Brind’Amour of his team’s game. “It was tough to watch that’s for sure. I love this team, I love my guys. We learned a lesson today, though. You know I got to take the good always with this group, and it’s been mostly good for me for a year and a half, two years, with the effort and the way they play, and I got to take the bad on this one. It wasn’t good. You know we just sat back and we let them take it to us, and you know that’s what championship teams do, they take it to you. So you know we got to learn from that for sure but this one is going to sting for a while.”
The two teams are back at it for game 5 on Wednesday at 4:00 pm EST from Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena.