The morning of Friday’s Game 3 at TD Garden, much like the mornings of Game 1 and 2 down in Raleigh, came with a simple desire from the Bruins’ point of view: Give us something to feel good about and let’s see where it goes.
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It was a more than understandable request, really. Through five head-to-heads with the Hurricane in 2021-22, nothing had gone Boston’s way. The Hurricanes had scored six times as many goals as the Bruins, and Bruce Cassidy’s squad had yet to even hold a lead of any sort against the Hurricanes. The Bruins had strong starts in both Games 1 and 2, too, but found themselves into multi-goal deficits each time with backbreaking, quick-strike breakdowns.
And Game 3 was shaping up to be more of the gut-wrenching same, when the Hurricanes were going to their first power-play chance of the evening up 1-0 and with the B’s already having sputtered to an 0-for-2 start on the man advantage.
But suddenly, with a Jake DeBrusk shorthanded saucer that hit Charlie Coyle right on the tape, it was 1-1.
It was the exact chance that would’ve hit the post or gone wide of the goal in the first two games of this series. It was basically everything the Bruins needed, as displayed by DeBrusk nearly tackling Coyle through the Garden glass on the celebration.
“When [DeBrusk] and [Coyle] made that play shorthanded to get us back in the game, it just changed our whole demeanor,” Brad Marchand admitted. “We’ve been playing catch-up all series. I think it felt good to know that we can come back in those situations [and] we can respond the way we have in the past.”
A tie was one thing. But the Bruins needed more, and they built off that adrenaline shot of a shorthanded marker with a Brad Marchand tally to give them their first lead of the
series season against Carolina. The goal was Marchand’s first five-on-five strike in over a full month, and got No. 63 back to looking and feeling like No. 63 for the remainder of the night.
“I think it’s the most [engaged] I’ve felt. Kind of been a little while since I’ve felt that into a game,” Marchand noted. “I think the importance of the situation that you’re in hit us all. Guys just seem like they were prepared when they got to the rink.”
“That’s a big lift for us,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of Marchand’s go-ahead goal. “We got a lead now for the first time against this team since what, 2020 or something? It’s been a while. All of a sudden, we get to play a little more comfortable game, so there’s a lot of those emotions to go through.”
With Marchand officially on the board, David Pastrnak decided to join in on the fun with a power-play marker goal to make it 3-1 for the Bruins. Now this goal was a gigantic one. Originally working with 1:31 of a five-on-three advantage, the Bruins couldn’t get anything through Carolina’s brick wall of a penalty kill and frustration was appearing to set in. And then Carolina gained a body, and the Bruins found themselves in the dying seconds of what would’ve been a colossal waste.
But with patience and poise, Pastrnak targeted the Hurricanes’ Pyotr Kochetkov and ripped a shot through with 14 seconds left in their power-play opportunity. Pastrnak’s celebration practically came with a sigh of relief for the Bruins.
“It took a while and a lot of patience, so it was a big one and hopefully we can take over from now,” said Pastrnak.
And that’s a statement that can apply to both the power play and Marchand and Pastrnak at all situations. The B’s two most important wingers, both Marchand and Pastrnak ate the donuts next to their names in the goal column in a nine-minute span Friday night, and have now given the Hurricanes two more threats to truly worry about.
“I’m not living in their heads, but I know the onus this time of year is on your best players being your best players,” Cassidy offered. “Typically that’s what you need and tonight they were.”
But the pockets of things to feel good about extended beyond Boston’s top threats.
In addition to Derek Forbort’s gigantic blocks, Jeremy Swayman came through with the ‘timely saves’ that eluded the Bruins at significant points of Game 2. His net-front denial of Nino Niederreiter moments after Coyle’s game-tying shorthanded goal was huuuuuuuge, and the team-wide commitment to keeping the puck out of the net in what I can only describe as the hockey version of plinko around Swayman’s net midway through the second period was an even bigger moment.
Just complete bedlam around Jeremy Swayman and the Bruins. pic.twitter.com/IYX9N3BTn4— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) May 7, 2022
“Do everything you can to win,” Swayman said of his mindset entering his first playoff start. “Simple.”
Elsewhere on the roster, Curtis Lazar and Chris Wagner did exactly what the Bruins needed out of their fourth line, Jake DeBrusk and Taylor Hall continued to bring the three-zone effort that’s required this time of year, and Mike Reilly came down from the clouds (or the press box in his case) with one of his best efforts of the entire season in place of the injured Hampus Lindholm. It was the one-through-18 (plus a goalie) effort that the Bruins felt they were on the cusp of getting.
Finally, the Bruins have something to feel good about, and with the results to back it up.
Now comes building on that by way of a full series reset back even between now and their flight back to Raleigh.
“[Desperation is] what we need to play with every day moving forward,” Marchand said. “It’s a good lesson for us to continue to learn and again, we need to keep playing like that.
“Right now it’s day-to-day. It feels good to get that one, but it’s on to the next.”
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