RALEIGH — Forget about Sebastian Aho scoring his seventh goal in four games, Frederik Andersen improving to 16-3-0 in regular season games against the Bruins, or the Hurricanes going a perfect 6 for 6 on the penalty kill.
If you want to understand Carolina’s dominant 4-1 win over Boston on Sunday in front of a standing-room-only crowd at PNC Arena, look at what the Bruins’ stars did.
Captain Patrice Bergeron was invisible, registering one shot while being on the ice for only four 5-on-5 shot attempts as Jordan Staal and his linemates suffocated the future Hall of Famer.
Brad Marchand made his biggest impact at the 12-minute mark of the second period when he took a penalty and was dragged out of a scrum via helmet strap by Andrei Svechnikov.
David Pastrnak was more noticeable — in all the wrong ways.
He had the puck stolen from by Aho on the red-hot center’s first period breakaway goal that set the tone for the game. He was then center stage for the finishing touch on Carolina’s win, being bullrushed by Staal on the Carolina captain’s shorthanded empty-net goal with just over four minutes left.
It was a dominating performance against a team that is having perhaps the most dominant regular season of the cap era, an effort that showed the Hurricanes — still nine points behind Boston in the league standings despite handing the Bruins their third straight loss — aren’t ready to play second fiddle to the Stanley Cup favorites.
“Listen, we know that that team is the cream of the crop, and they’re lapping everybody right now,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said after the win, “It was a good test, obviously, but I thought we just played good regardless of the opponent. We were solid the whole game.”
Bruins coach Jim Montgomery put it more succinctly.
“I thought they checked us right out of the rink,” he said.
Aho’s goal, his 21st of the season, was the game’s defining moment, putting Carolina up for good and immediately taking the impenetrable sheen off goalie Linus Ullmark (33 saves) just 10:52 into the game.
It also extended the best stretch of the 25-year-old’s career: Aho has seven goals in his last four games.
“I think there is still another level up there,” Aho said of his play.
Andersen, with 24 saves in winning his fifth straight decision since returning from injury 2½ weeks ago, made key saves when needed but was rarely challenged as the Hurricanes’ team defense, even without an injured Jaccob Slavin, limited Boston’s opportunities.
“I don’t think we really gave up a ton,” Brind’Amour said. “He was good when he had to be, and that’s the key.”
And Boston’s power play, fourth in the league at 26.2% coming in, was stifled by Carolina’s aggressive kill — which moved up to seventh in the league at 81.9% after killing all six of the Bruins’ opportunities.
“It seems like the same story when we play these guys, no matter how we try,” Brind’Amour said. “‘Don’t take penalties’ — we end up with five or six a night, which isn’t good. But we get a lot of practice against them. … The penalty kill was great, the difference in the game.”
The Hurricanes even got a power play goal for the second straight game when Martin Necas snapped a shot wide to Ullmark’s right and the puck kicked to the other side of the net to Paul Stastny, who popped it in for his fourth goal of the season and a 2-0 lead at 12:05 of the middle frame.
A goal by Seth Jarvis at 1:57 of the third made Taylor Hall’s 15th of the season 85 seconds later irrelevant to the final result, one that should make the league take notice of the other team at the top of the NHL standings.
“It’s a big win,” Burns said of Carolina’s eighth straight game with a point and fifth consecutive win. “I think coming home and playing a great team like that, it feels good.”
Notes: Jaccob Slavin missed his fourth straight game with a lower-body injury. … Defenseman Calvin de Haan played a season-high 18:43. … Burns played in his 1,300th career game.