(Photo: Alan Sullivan)

The Boston Bruins were coming off a two-game, four-point trip in Florida and were 4-0-1 in the last five games going into their Thursday night game hosting the Carolina Hurricanes. Both teams had played on Tuesday and while the Hurricanes won theirs in regulation, the Bruins would be forced to overtime for the third game in a row.

Surprisingly, both teams came out flat, going just shy of five minutes into the first before the Canes finally registered the first shot on goal of either team, and that was the result of the power play they had been awarded when Patrice Bergeron was sent to the box for a high stick. The Canes would pepper three successive shots in 12 seconds, potting the third as hometown, Boston College alum, Noah Hanifin saucered the puck to Elias Lindholm whose shot found the back of Tuukka Rask’s net.

The Bruins responded with eight shots of their own over the next seven minutes, but with 2:45 remaining in the opening period, Bergeron would get called for another penalty, allowing the Hurricanes two more shots on net, though Boston would make the kill. Despite out-shooting Carolina, the Bruins would go to the dressing room for the first intermission down a goal.

David Pastrnak, Jordan Staal and Tuukka Rask (Photo: Alan Sullivan)

David Pastrnak, Jordan Staal and Tuukka Rask (Photo: Alan Sullivan)

The middle frame offered an early man advantage to the Bruins when just 37 seconds in when Lindholm was whistled for holding. Though they would be unable to convert, they did get three shots on Cam Ward proving there were gaps in Carolina’s penalty kill. As the Bruins went on the power play again about two minutes later, they exploited these gaps and were able to capitalize as once again Loui Eriksson saw before him a wide open back door just as Bergeron got the puck to him.

Despite continuing to pepper shots at Ward, the Bruins couldn’t seem to find the twine—perhaps because so many of their shots were taken more than 20 feet away from the net. The Hurricanes Nathan Gerbe would put the visitors back up 2-1 with still a little more than half the period to go. And breakdowns in play and slow skating would give Gerbe a golden opportunity to go up 3-1 if not for the determination of Rask to keep the puck out—despite Gerbe somehow ending up laying on top of the Bruins net minder. Given the Bruins’ struggles to coordinate on the ice, combined with some of the slowest line changes of the season, they were lucky to get out of the second down just a goal.

The third period began much the same as the first with neither team notching a shot on goal in the first three minutes, but just after Brett Pesce’s slap shot was denied by Rask in the Boston end at 5:24, the Bruins David Krejci made a stretch pass to David Pastrnak getting him well into the offensive zone. Pastrnak was looking to make a pass when he saw Ward open some space on the short side between himself and the post and that’s the invitation Pastrnak needed to wrist it into the net.

When Torey Krug went off for hooking it was a gut check moment for the Bruins. They needed to make an important penalty kill, but they would then need to follow that up with a strong first five-on-five shift following the penalty if they had hopes of regaining some momentum in the overall lackluster game for them. Even within the faceoff circle they had struggles throughout the game.

As the clock got under two minutes remaining in regulation, there was a palpable energy from those in the stands somehow willing the Bruins to take it to overtime, thus guaranteeing at least a point for those in black and gold. There were probably about 50 in attendance who were the exception to this feeling, as they were in attendance for Hanifin’s first NHL game in Boston, and were undoubtedly wishing for a Hurricanes victory.

With his second assist of the night as Hanifin fed the puck to Jeff Skinner who then dished it to Phillip Di Giuseppe for the OT winner, it seemed fitting that he would play a role in the end of the game as he had on the opening goal. His family and friends were there to celebrate in his victory. His team even tricked him into doing a couple of laps all alone at the start of warm-ups.

The point the Bruins garnered by taking the game to overtime before losing put them in first place in the Atlantic Division. However, their lack of game left them with an OT loss and that was what they were thinking about after the game.

Noah Hanifin (Photo: Alan Sullivan)

Noah Hanifin (Photo: Alan Sullivan)

And for Hanifin? He called it a dream come true. His team gave him the wrestler’s belt signifying his contributions in the game. He went fifth overall in the 2015 NHL Draft to Carolina and has proved to them he deserves a spot on their roster. In his 65 games he’s scored three goals and earned 13 assists for 16 points—two of those coming in Boston with his family and friends watching and sharing in the win.

While it certainly wasn’t’ the best game for the Bruins—in fact it was a mediocre game for them at best, despite the shots on goal—they still presenlyt sit at the top of their division. The majority of the hockey community wrote them off for the playoffs—even their owners Jeremy and Charlie Jacobs, along with General Manager Don Sweeney and President Cam Neely were cautious in their comments at the beginning of the season. The Bruins are a far cry from a lock, with teams in the Atlantic Division having from 13 to 16 games remaining and point variations slim, but they are also not at the bottom of the league where many expected them to be sitting. The key for them is to get back to playing their game—the one they play on the road—regardless of the rink in which their skates touch the ice.

Post game interviews with both teams:

A family historian by profession, Rhonda R. McClure has loved hockey since she was a child in New Hampshire. Any opportunity to combine her love of writing, hockey and research is something she looks forward to with much enthusiasm. She's been accused of seeking out shinny games when there are no other hockey events taking place. She is a member of the Society for International Hockey Research. Follow her on Twitter at @HockeyMaven1917.


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