BOSTON — The Hurricanes knew they couldn’t afford to lose the special teams battle in Thursday’s Game 6 in Boston.
They did, and now they’ll return home for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday at PNC Arena.
Carolina’s power play went 1 for 6, not scoring until the game was already decided and squandering a 5-on-3 power play and four chances in all in the pivotal second period. Boston, meanwhile, used its power play to seize control of the game in a 5-2 Bruins win.
“It was a little different after that,” Hurricanes captain Jordan Staal said of the team’s overall play after the failed 5-on-3. “I thought we should’ve done a better job sticking with our game and just being confident in what we do even 5-on-5, and we didn’t do that.”
The Hurricanes found themselves in a 1-0 hole when Brad Marchand cleanly beat Antti Raanta (29 saves) with a shot from the wing 46 seconds into the second period. It was the first time Boston scored the opening goal in nine games against Carolina this season.
“We made a mistake,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “A tough change and it got on the best player’s hands there, and he made us pay. And now we’re chasing the game a little bit.”
The Hurricanes had their chances to get back into the game with four straight second period power plays.
After both Seth Jarvis and Nino Niederreiter hit the crossbar behind Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman (23 saves) on the first man advantage, Carolina’s power play dried up.
The Hurricanes got three more chances in the middle frame, including 53 seconds of 5-on-3 time, but managed just two shots on goal and didn’t get any on net during the two-man advantage.
“You get a 5-on-3 there, it’s a big chance to score a goal,” Hurricanes center Sebastian Aho said.
When the Bruins got their chance, they didn’t falter.
With Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce in the box for holding at 16:58, David Pastrnak took a one-timer that was blocked by Aho but bounced right to Charlie Coyle for an easy tap in and a 2-0 lead at 18:04 that they took into the third period.
“It’s a bounce here, bounce there, the game’s different,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s hockey. Their power play, they rip one, we block it and it goes right to their guy.”
The Hurricanes got some hope early in the third when Andrei Svechnikov scored the first of his two third period goals at 3:24 to halve Boston’s lead. But an Aho turnover gave the Bruins a prolonged shift in the Carolina end that ended with Erik Haula scoring on a redirection to make it 3-1.
“They had that monster shift in the third when we got back in the game,” Brind’Amour said. “We had the puck like four times — not how we normally do things. That’s what you get.”
A Derek Forbort goal at 10:43 sealed what probably should have been obvious coming into the game: This series will need a deciding Game 7 to see who advances to the second round.
“The good news is we have another game to play,” Brind’Amour said.
And the Hurricanes are already excited about it.
“As a kid, you dream about playing these games,” Niederreiter said. “So I think it’s exciting for every single player to play these games — and make them count.”
Notes: Aho took a heavy hit from Boston defenseman Charlie McAvoy near the midway point of the first period and never looked right after that, finishing with just one shot attempt and several uncharacteristic turnovers. … Svechnikov had the third two-goal playoff game of his career. He scored twice in his playoff debut at Washington in 2019 and also had a hat trick in the NHL bubble against the Rangers. … Marchand was called for a four-minute penalty after spearing Jesperi Kotkaniemi in the third period. Marchand, one of the most disciplined players in NHL history, was suspended two games for spearing Tampa Bay’s Jake Dotchin in 2017.