The wait, it turns out, wasn’t worth it.
The Carolina Hurricanes, scheduled for a week off and then forced to wait another day after the preceding Toronto bubble game went to five overtimes Tuesday night, went to double-overtime in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal game with Boston only to lose when Patrice Bergeron scored after 81:13 minutes of play to give the Bruins a 4-3 win and the early edge in the series.
“We’ve been sitting for so long,” said Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said after the loss and with his team now faced with games on consecutive days after Game 1 was pushed back a day due to Tuesday’s marathon game between Tampa Bay and Columbus. “So we’re going to try to shore up a couple of things and and then just get back at it. That’s what you want.”
After going 20 minutes of overtime without the game being decided, the Bruins’ Perfection Line — shut out in the round robin games but back in form for the real start of the postseason — ended it.
David Pastrnak — already with a goal in the game — cut through the center of the ice and backhanded a pass to Bergeron that beat a drifting Petr Mrazek to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead in the series and their seventh straight win over the Hurricanes.
While much was made in the lead-up to the series about Boston’s struggles — specifically those of its top line — Carolina entered Game 1 with arguably the hottest line in hockey.
But the trio of Sebastian Aho centering Teuvo Teravainen and Andrei Svechnikov was mostly held in check, with two of the Hurricanes’ three goals scored by its defense and the other by Brock McGinn while shorthanded.
“I think that the rust was certainly there,” Brind’Amour said. “The pace of the game, we weren’t ready for [it]. And, you know, the grind — they grinded us down and we weren’t quite ready for that. And I thought we got a little better as the game went on, saw semblances of how we’d like to play. It wasn’t there enough, and that’s why we were on the short end.”
The one place where Boston expected a decided advantage, in goaltending, instead favored Carolina for most of the afternoon.
While Mrazek (36 saves) made several big saves under immense pressure, Tuukka Rask uncharacteristically struggled to locate the puck. The first time came in the opening period.
Aho got the puck at the top of the circles in the Bruins zone and executed a drop pass back to Teravainen. Teravainen fed the puck between Bruins forward Anders Bjork’s legs to Joel Edmundson, who one-timed a slap shot across the grain and past a sliding Rask (25 saves) to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead at 13:02 of the first period.
Boston quickly answered.
Off a faceoff in the Carolina end, Bergeron won the draw over to Brad Marchand. Marchand switched sides with Pastrnak, who beat Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin to the far side of the net and scored Petr Mrazek to tie the game at 17:45 of the opening period.
“These guys are battle-tested. … We’ve got a lot of trust in those guys,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of his top line.
The Bruins then took the lead 4:38 into the second period when, after the puck was jarred free from Mrazek — who seemed to have it covered — Charlie Coyle put the puck into an empty net to give Boston its first lead.
The Hurricanes challenged the call and were charged a penalty when the goal was upheld — but still managed to tie the game.
Carolina forced a turnover at their own blue line and sprung Brock McGinn on a breakaway. McGinn faked a shot and went to his backhand, lifting the puck over Rask to tie the game just 21 seconds after the Bruins had seized control.
“To get that goal, I think that gave our bench a little momentum and just a little bit of spirit on our bench,” McGinn said. “So, it was nice getting that goal back real quick for us.”
The third period featured more back and forth.
After Mrazek made a fantastic shoulder save on Ondrej Kase, David Krejci scored on the ensuing scramble to give Boston a 3-2 lead just 59 seconds into the final frame.
The Hurricanes again had an answer.
Haydn Fleury, playing in his 13th career postseason game, wristed a shot from the point that beat Rask for his first career playoff point and a tie game at 9:49 of the third.
That set up overtime, but Carolina was unable to create much while Boston mostly carried the play. The Hurricanes did survive a Bruins power play — defenseman Brady Skjei was called for holding at 18:24 of the first overtime, not long after a Bruins player broke Skjei’s stick with a slash that went uncalled — but managed just seven shots on goal in the 21-plus minutes of overtime.
Game 2 is Thursday at 8 p.m. and Boston will again be the designated home team.
Notes: Brind’Amour was fined $25,000 by the NHL for comments he made to two reporters following the league’s Zoom call about the officiating, particularly the failed challenge on Coyle’s goal. He was also received a $25,000 conditional fine that will be levied if he has faces another disciplinary action in the next year. … Both Sami Vatanen and Justin Williams were announced as “unfit to play” prior to the game. Jake Gardiner and Ryan Dzingel played in their place. … Dougie Hamilton played his first game since Jan. 16 when he fractured his ankle. … Aho is tied for the playoff lead in scoring with nine points after getting an assist on Edmundson’s goal. Connor McDavid, whose Oilers were knocked out in the Qualifier Round, also has nine points.