–I think the entire game hinged on the first period. The Canes were dominant but got nothing to show for it on the scoreboard. What stands out most was Teravainen being unable to hit half of an open net (puck was squibbling on way to him which made it tough shot) 30 seconds in and then the inability to score on the 4-on-3/5-on-3 sequence.
–As much as I love Justin Williams and everything he has done for the team, I think he missed badly with his first period death wish for Torey Krug. The 4-on-4 sequence midway through the first period relieved pressure for Boston and the subsequent penalties created breaks to help them get their feet under them and survive the first period.
–For as many times as the Hurricanes have pumped a bunch of low-quality shots and declared “hot goalie”, I think tonight was legitimate. Rask is in a surreal kind of groove where he makes a dozen great saves and then has luck to back that up. He somehow had a shot he did not see go straight into his glove and another go off his stick and into his glove somehow. I said before the series started that a path to victory would result if they cracked Rask. That has not happened so far.
–Special teams was again arguably the difference. The Canes power play just seems to become slower and more predictable by the game.
–Important to note is that in no way was Tuesday’s loss the result of lack of effort, heart or character. The effort was 100%.
–As I said on Twitter shortly after the game, if the Hurricanes wanted to somehow try to write a script to top the Washington series win, this start would be it.
The game started exactly as the Hurricanes would have hoped. Only 18 seconds into the game, Teuvo Teravainen had a grade A scoring chance shooting on a chunk of open net from a tough angle. The puck was not flat when he received it which made it tough, but it was still a missed opportunity. Only 37 seconds later seemingly overwhelmed by some combination of pressure and possibly crowd noise, Brandon Carlo flipped the puck over the glass for a penalty. But the power play could not convert. Nevertheless, the start was exactly what the Canes wanted.
Meanwhile in an alternate universe, Justin Williams seemed to acquire some odd obsession with Torey Krug. The two traded punches (gloves on) behind the net for matching penalties 6:43 into the game. Had the Canes started slow and needed a spark, maybe this makes sense, but the Hurricanes had been dominating 5-on-5 play. At the point of the penalty, the Hurricanes had 11 shots on net and 6 more misses with the Bruins having one on net (and no misses). The matching penalties made for more room on the ice and offered relief for the Bruins at a time when they were being annihilated. After the penalties, the Hurricanes got their feet under them and had four of the next five shots on net. Then Williams took another penalty on Krug for holding the stick. But that penalty was cut short when the Bruins took two penalties in rapid succession. The Hurricanes had 1:09 of 4-on-3 power play time and then 45 seconds of 5-on-3 power play. In general, the Canes power play is just a slow grinding effort right now. They did muster a couple decent chances and some scrambles around the crease, but it is a results business this time of year, and the Hurricanes did not net results. The Hurricanes would net yet another power play attempt and not score. And the period would finish with Williams taking an elbowing penalty again trying to run Krug. The period would end with a massive 20-6 shot advantage for the Hurricanes but nothing doing on the scoreboard.
Sure enough, the Bruins pushed back to start the second period. First, the Bruins fourth line intercepted a soft clearing attempt by Brock McGinn and quickly converted it to a transition scoring chance. When Justin Faulk was slow to find Chris Wagner in front who tapped in a pretty pass from Joakim Nordstrom. Then the Bruins would add a power play tally when Brad Marchand walked right around Faulk to the middle of the face-off circles. His backhand shot went off Calvin de Haan and found a hole through Curtis McElhinney. The 2-0 deficit was obviously a problem, but also significant was that the Hurricanes then opened things up with defensemen pushing up. The result was more back-and-forth play and more even footing for the Bruins after being hemmed in their own end in the first period. The Hurricanes looked shaky after the second goal but somehow survived. The Hurricanes finally scored to get within a goal when Calvin de Haan oddly beat Tuukka Rask right through from distance with no screen. The goal was odd in that it seemed like about the 15th most difficult chance Rask had faced. The teams would head to the dressing room with the score 2-1 Bruins after a second period that saw the Bruins regain the upper hand.
The Hurricanes pushed intermittently especially in the front part of the third period, but Rask continued to have an answer for everything. The best chance was a back door tap in attempt by Andrei Svechnikov. Much like the Teravainen chance early, the play was not as easy as it looked with the puck bouncing. Nonetheless for a team that desperately need a goal it was a good chance gone by the wayside. The Hurricanes had a power play late but again failed to score, and their time with the extra attacker looked a bit disjointed like the power play with a few turnovers in the defensive zone and not that much for great chances in the waning moments.
In total, the effort was 100 percent there, and the Hurricanes arguably deserved a better fate. Tuukka Rask rightfully won the first star. On the Hurricanes side, the story was one of missed opportunities on the power play and otherwise.
Player and other notes
1) Tuukka Rask
For as much as the “faced a hot goalie” explanation was often overblown in the past, that really was a headline story for this game. Rask was like a magical puck magnet. Even the shots where he had no clue where it was hit him. Most telling was a shot that he somehow managed to deflect up toward the net but into his glove. After a couple up and down years in play and with the Bruins fan base, the “Tuuuu” cheers are somewhat amusing. Over the past couple weeks, Bruins fans have probably been digging Rask jerseys that had been left for dead out of the back part of their closets.
2) Special teams
For those who watched the game, this is a no-brainer. The failure to score on the power play in the first period was arguably the single biggest turning point of the game. And with the Bruins scoring on a second period power play, the minus one on special teams was one way to account for the difference on the scoreboard.
3) Justin Williams
The details are above, so I will not recount them, but Williams first period death wish for Torey Krug seemed to single-handedly offer relief to a Bruins team that was struggling to get out of its own end in the first period. The 4-on-4 after the first penalty (a matching one) was the first chance the Bruins had to breathe. The two more penalties that followed also helped the Bruins get their feet under the. Because of how much Justin Williams has done for this team as a leader this season, this will likely either be ignored or just get swept under the rug, but I think it was significant in how this game played out.
4) The effort and intensity
One could not ask for more from the Hurricanes in terms of their start or effort throughout the game. The team competed for pucks, played with pace and pressured the puck whenever possible. Though the result fell short, it was not for lack of effort.
5) The defense trying to find one
15 of the Hurricanes 36 shots were from defensemen. And sure enough Calvin de Haan scored the only Canes goal. Dougie Hamilton had a game high 6 shots on net (tied with Williams).
Next up is game 4 at PNC Arena on Thursday.