By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
RALEIGH — There’s a motto these never-say-die Bruins have adopted: They don’t weather the storm. They are the storm.
Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy began his morning skate availability joking about the irony of that given Boston’s third-round opponent. And fittingly enough, it was a Hurricane-level first period storm that the Bruins were forced to weather (survive is a better word) in order to steal a 2-1 final at PNC Arena on Tuesday night.
In what was an incredibly titled opening frame (and in more ways than one), it was Tuukka Rask that was forced to make 20 saves, with perhaps no stop better than his stop on a rebound look from Justin Williams from in-tight. Rask was also tasked with being the Black and Gold’s top penalty-killer in a penalty-filled period, as the Bruins spent six minutes on the kill in the period — and with the ‘Canes having a 1:09 stretch of four-on-three hockey along with a 45-second five-on-three advantage — but stuffed a desperate Carolina attack at every corner. By the end of the frame, the shots read 20-6.
It was Carolina’s most shot-friendly playoff period since a 22-shot period against Martin Brodeur back in Apr. 2009.
And all things being equal, the Bruins were beyond lucky to not find themselves in a multi-goal deficit through 20 minutes.
But the Bruins didn’t have to wait long to make their response count.
It was just 1:21 into the second period (and on Boston’s first shot of the period, no less) that Chris Wagner came to collect, and capitalized on a gorgeous feed from Joakim Nordstrom to beat Curtis McElhinney and put the Bruins up 1-0.
Chris Wagner scored his second goal of the Conference Finals after being held off the score sheet in the @NHLBruins’ opening two rounds of the 2019 #StanleyCup Playoffs. #NHLStats pic.twitter.com/V6IIeYpq39— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 15, 2019
You could feel the energy sucked out of the once-jumping building, and the B’s built on that when Nino Niederreiter took an offensive-zone penalty, which allowed Brad Marchand to bank a backhand look off Calvin de Haan’s hand and into the net.
And just like that, the game was flipped on its head.
But the ‘Canes kept the pressure on Rask — not before Rask made any sensational save, this time on a desperation look that saw Rask slide on his side to stack the pads and absorb a shot to the B on his chest — and ultimately broke through behind a de Haan shot to make this a one-goal game with 6:12 remaining in the second period.
In a one-goal third period, Rask was tested on a Sebastian Aho backhand chance just 1:56 into the period, and the Bruins appeared to finally get some wiggle room on a Torey Krug power-play blast through Curtis McElhinney. But the goal was immediately called off due to incidental contact with DeBrusk and McElhinney, and not even a Boston challenge could sway the official or Toronto’s war room, and Boston lost their timeout as well as their hope of a two-goal cushion.
From there, the Bruins were sent right back to the penalty kill on a Matt Grzelcyk, and had yet another successful kill.
The final five minutes featured tense moments galore, and it was not until McElhinney vacated his crease that the Bruins truly find themselves in a scramble of sorts, and with point shots galore from Carolina defenders.
But in the end, it was the Bruins that held on thanks to some frantic forechecking to prevent a last-second rush from the ‘Canes.
Rask finished the night with stops on 35 of the 36 shots thrown his way, while McElhinney came close to matching him by way of a 29-of-31 effort in Carolina’s crease.
With the victory, the Bruins now have a 3-0 series lead for the first time since their 2013 Eastern Conference finals series against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Bruins would go on to complete the sweep in that series behind a 1-0 Game 4 final.
The Bruins will go for the sweep Thursday night with an 8 p.m. puck-drop.