Tuesday night, the Boston Bruins played host to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Bruins came into the game riding a 16-point streak and were hoping to continue the momentum. Meanwhile the Hurricanes paid homage to their roots by wearing Hartford Whaler throwback jerseys and riding their own strong stretch, having a 21-6-1 record in their last 28 games. This was the third meeting of these two teams this season and the only one to be played in Boston. The Bruins took the first game in overtime back in October, but fell mightily in a 5-2 defeat on December 23, and were undoubtedly looking to get the win on home ice.
Maybe it was the throwback jerseys, but the first period definitely had a throwback feel to it with the physicality. Both teams were throwing some heavy hits, especially after Michael Ferland’s hit on Marcus Johansson at 3:15 of the first. The Ferland hit was a clean, solid hit, but unfortunately Johansson went down to the ice and appeared to be in some serious pain. He was helped off the ice and did not return to the game and it was later reported that he had been taken to the hospital. No further word was released. This ramped up the hits from the Bruins—who dished out five hits in the next 35 seconds of the game. This approach saw them getting away from their style as they concentrated on perhaps the hits rather than the purpose of being on the ice.
At 3:53 of the first, while David Backes’ line was on the ice, he asked Ferland to go. To his credit, Ferland agreed to the fight.
“You have to stick up for your teammates. Whether it was a liberty taken or you know, tonight’s hit which was a hard, clean hit, but if guys are running at our skilled guys, we need to hold them accountable and I thought there was an opportunity for me to step up and you know, fill that role,” Backes said after the game. “I asked [Bruce Cassidy], when we were in Vegas and we had a meeting, if I could be put in roles or places that would have a bigger impact on games and you know, whether that’s with my gloves off or my gloves on I think he’s provided me those opportunities and hopefully I’ve done my job for him.”
When you consider the injuries that Backes has sustained, especially the concussions, there are always concerns about him potentially being sidelined, something he says he cannot think about while in a game. His willingness to do whatever is necessary to stick up for his teammates and to be effective in any way possible speaks to his leadership qualities.
Despite the fisticuffs, it appeared that the Bruins were allowing the Hurricanes to take the game to them. Carolina’s strong forecheck was making it hard for the Bruins. So perhaps it wasn’t a surprise when Sebastian Aho notched the first goal for Carolina at 6:30 of the first.
Aho came into Tuesday’s game leading his team in goals (27), assists (46), and points (73). The goal was originally credited to Calvin de Haan, who was returning from being out with an injury, but later was given to Aho. The puck itself actually ricocheted off of Zdeno Chara’s skate and past Jaroslav Halak, though this in no way takes away from how Aho was playing. During that first period, in his nine shifts, he had four shots on net—one of which turned into the goal—along with one hit and he won four of his six faceoffs (67%). It was clear that Aho was definitely playing a hard game and making the Bruins work to contain him.
“He’s getting better and better, really been solid all year. Picks it up right when we need a big play he seems to be there. Like I mentioned [Justin] Williams is the same, they’ve been solid for us. Obviously we need that,” shared Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour.
Besides Backes’ fight, the Bruins struggled to stay out of the penalty box in the first period. John Moore took an ill-advised cross-checking minor roughly 30 seconds after Aho scored, putting his team down a man. Fortunately, 42 seconds later Carolina’s Justin Williams was whistled for a hooking which put the teams at even strength. That didn’t last long though, as 43 seconds after that Bruin Charlie McAvoy was sent to the box for a tripping. Somehow the Bruins managed to keep the Hurricanes from capitalizing during the ensuing four-on-three. Boston would end up with one more penalty in the first, a too many men on the ice, which Peter Cehlarik served. It was probably fortunate for the Bruins that they got out of the first down just a single goal.
Second Period Tie
It was expected that Boston would come out with more determination in the second period, but 1:10 into the middle frame, Aho scored his second of the game and put the Hurricanes up 2-0. It looked like the combination of Johansson’s injury and playing on their heels during the first had somehow deflated the Bruins. Certainly, many who were watching the game believed they were done.
But that’s the thing with the Bruins. They believe in their line mates, their teammates, their coaches, and their system. And that means that they should never be counted out.
“Just play our game. I think it sounds cliché and simple, but we weren’t really playing our style and kind of playing into Carolina’s hands… trying to make sure their forecheck wasn’t as aggressive and holding up guys in the neutral zone and different things like that. But, most importantly just play our style and play our game and do what’s been working. It was a big response, big goal by [Chris Wagner] to get us going there and then I thought we found our legs,” Jake DeBrusk said of their resolve in the second period.
The first half of the game was certainly the Hurricanes with the better opportunities and controlling the game, but the ice began to tilt a bit in Boston’s favor when Wagner once again went to the dirty areas, hanging out in front of the crease. Brandon Carlo, who was having one of his best games this season, put the puck on Curtis McElhinney, from the top of the right circle. McElhinney let up a rebound and Wagner put it in the net. Getting on the scoreboard did wake up the Bruins.
“I think we started getting more pucks behind them like we talked about. And they kind of had to start backing off and we could create more offense. So, once that one went in, I kind of felt as if we were going to get a couple more. And, you know, we ended up doing that,” Wagner said.
As the clock ticked under two minutes, the Bruins were working the puck out of their end, and Jaccob Slavin, who was on his knees in the neutral zone, did his best to try and keep the puck in the offensive end for the Hurricanes, but instead David Krejci pushed hard and moving up the left side to transition the puck the other way. As Krejci was coming up on McElhinney, he made a cutback move that bought him the space to put the puck on McElhinney, who again let up a rebound, and DeBrusk was there to put it in the net. The Bruins had come from being down two goals to tied going into the second intermission.
Third Period Shorty
Shortly after the beginning of the third period, the Bruins found themselves once again on the penalty kill, having been caught again with too many men on the ice. Up to this point the Bruins had been excellent at killing off the penalties, but each one brought another opportunity for the Hurricanes. However, while shorthanded, Brad Marchand stole the puck from Williams and immediately headed out of the Bruins end with Patrice Bergeron rushing up the left side in stride. As they closed in, with only one Hurricane back, Marchand made the perfect pass at the right moment, and Bergeron put the puck home. It was the first lead for the Bruins in the entire game. However, there was still 17:15 remaining in the game, and that’s a lot of time when playing hockey. With 7:43 remaining in regulation Williams tied the game for the Hurricanes, and that’s where things stayed until the end of regulation.
For the second time between these two teams this season, they would have to take it to the extra inning. Boston came into the overtime period with a 7-6 record while Carolina had a 4-4 record. Once again the combination of Krejci and DeBrusk would work their magic. DeBrusk, who was coming around behind the Hurricanes’ net, with Justin Faulk trying to knock him off the puck, made a little spin, and put the puck right on Krejci’s stick as Krejci was skating hard to the net. The Bruins won it just 1:46 into overtime.