By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
David Pastrnak roared back to life with a two-goal effort in the Bruins’ Game 5 win, capping his resurgence on the game-winning goal with just 1:28 left to put the B’s up 4-3. But the go-ahead score doesn’t happen without a spectacular individual effort by defenseman Brandon Carlo.
The game’s decisive sequence started when the ever-dangerous Artemi Panarin snaked into the Bruins’ zone with a chance for his own heroics. Carlo had other plans.
First he parked his 6-foot-5 frame in Panarin’s path and stifled any opportunity he had to get near Tuukka Rask. Carlo’s stick work smothered Panarin’s bid like a feeble campfire. Then he sparked back up with a simple-but-effective pass through the neutral zone to Brad Marchand, firing the rush back toward Sergei Bobrovsky.
Brandon Carlo shutting down Artemi Panarin directly led to the Pastrnak goal to make it 4-3 pic.twitter.com/D00ct3Sgwn— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) May 5, 2019
Marchand and Pastrnak did the rest.
Carlo played 13:48 of ice time against Panarin, and the Bruins held a 15-10 advantage in shot attempts with that matchup, according to Natural Stat Trick. Panarin is no joke, but Carlo made him look like one on his clutch defensive play. And his smooth neutral zone pass to Marchand paid huge dividends.
“He’s a great player, obviously,” Carlo said of Panarin. “He’s very shifty. He does a very good job of getting to the inside. Just trying to eliminate that opportunity for him. It was good that I could get my stick and a little body on him. I’m glad we could get the turnover and get it moving the other way.”
Carlo’s night wasn’t perfect. He nearly cost the Bruins a goal with a turnover in his own end, and Tuukka Rask bailed him out with a clutch save on Cam Atkinson all alone. But other than that, the Bruins’ third-year defenseman had perhaps the most impactful playoff performance of his young career.
His play on Panarin epitomized an encouraging theme for the Bruins defense. Carlo, and especially Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug, pushed the puck aggressively up the ice on breakouts and sliced through the neutral zone with regularity. It resulted in hefty zone time for the B’s, especially in the first period. The approach didn’t come without hiccups, particularly when Columbus found another gear after going down by a goal in the second period.
Those ebbs and flows are to be expected in a pivotal playoff game like Saturday’s thriller. But the Bruins ultimately stuck to the plan and it paid off on the final tally, thanks to Carlo.
“In the second we had some burps with getting the puck deep, but overall I felt like we moved it pretty well through the first and the third and did a great job of staying aggressive and on top of their guys as well,” said Carlo.
A big-boy effort for the 22-year-old defender. And overall, a huge step forward for the Bruins’ back end and top forwards to stay aggressive, keep themselves established in the Columbus zone, and capitalize on their best opportunities. Those chances started with the blue liners eliminating Columbus’ and quickly turning the puck back up the other direction.
None of those plays were more crucial than Carlo’s.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.