Leaving PNC Arena with a victory is a daunting task. This spring, the building has been one of the loudest in the league and the Hurricanes have been dominant at home. Prior to Tuesday night’s contest, the Canes were 5-0 at home with 4.4 goals a game, while only allowing 1.4 per game. These gaudy statistics proved instrumental to overcoming the series deficit against the defending champions and then punctuating the Islanders’ demise.
And so the trend appeared to continue in game three of the Eastern Conference Final. The Hurricanes came out on fire in the first period, domineering the Bruins in all aspects. The Canes out-attempted the Bruins 32-9 in the first frame. Tuukka Rask, as is par for the course these playoffs, stood on his head and made several remarkable saves to keep the game scoreless.
The Bruins regrouped in the locker room and immediately altered their compete level. The Bruins struck twice in the first 6:28 of the second period to take the wind out of the Hurricanes sails and deflate the raucous crowd.
The Bruins did the same in game one, when the group stormed back from a third period deficit on the back of several Carolina penalties. The Bruins had looked lethargic to that point, as Carolina’s vaulted forecheck hemmed the black and gold in their own zone.
“...no one’s really happy after the second. You know, we talked about it internally,” said Bruce Cassidy, on the team’s mindset entering the third period of game one. “I’m not going to tell you everything we said, but we’re not real happy about our second period. It’s been a bit of an issue for us, so they know. They have to dig in. It’s just the way it is. Usually, it’s not magical. It’s usually you have to outwill the guy with the puck. You take their second goal; we lost four puck battles continuously on our way up the ice. They won four. Let’s put it that way.”
The comeback started with the power play. The team’s most dynamic scorers make up the first unit, which engineered the resurgence. Marcus Johansson won position against Jaccob Slavin and buried home a rebound to tie the game. Later, Patrice Bergeron potted a Brad Marchand feed after he separated from Slavin in the middle of the slot. From that point on, the Bruins controlled play and set the Canes back on their heels.
“We did get frustrated. We didn’t get in. We have to make some adjustments there,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked about if the power play was frustrated after not scoring on the first power play. “We talked about things you can do, but until you live it, it makes it difficult. But at the end of the day their an experienced group. They know that we need them at that particular point. So, I think our group’s been pretty good at identifying some key times in games throughout these playoffs. We got to step up, and that was one of them, a big goal for us. Both of them, really. It changed the complex of the game, so good for them.”
Those two are just the most recent examples. The Bruins overcame a Herculean effort from Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and ultimately broke him in game six of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Seth Jones and company had completely shut down Boston’s top line halfway through the series until the NHL’s best line scored multiple times in a Bruins victory. The Bruins got scored on when a puck hit the protective netting, yet still prevailed and won the game. Against the arch-rival Maple Leafs in the first round, the Bruins triumphed despite the Maple Leafs’ high powered offense, Nazem Kadri’s outlandish and dirty play, and death threats directed at Jake DeBrusk. No matter what adversity these Bruins have faced, they rely on the leaders in the room. Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask and company have seen it all and remain steadfast against such challenges.
Veteran leadership is invaluable, especially come playoff time, when the team might be facing a mirage of injuries and a severe uptick in pressure. The team’s leadership has contributed to the team’s comebacks and the team having 18 different scorers in the playoffs. When the team competes together, everyone has a chance to shine. One win away from directly competing for Lord Stanley’s Cup, the Bruins have learned from past defeats and are a strong challenger to lift the Cup due to the team’s veteran core.