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The Playoff Buzzer: Bruins blast Hurricanes in Game 2

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  • Ouch. Look, every now and then, a game just gets away from you, even during the playoffs. It’s happened before for the Hurricanes, and Carolina found a way to win their Round 1 series against the Capitals, anyway. They’ll need to channel those emotions, as the Bruins absolutely stomped the Hurricanes in Game 2 on Sunday.

Bruins 6, Hurricanes 2 (Boston leads series 2-0; Game 3 on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN; stream here).

After running away with Game 1 thanks to a four-goal third period, the Bruins duplicated that success when it mattered during Game 2. Boston scored two goals in each of the three periods to take a 6-0 lead, coughing up those two late goals when the two teams were basically killing time. Granted, the Hurricanes probably felt some relief by scoring a couple goals against Tuukka Rask, including a blunder by Rask on the second tally. From special teams to even-strength play to goaltending, the Hurricanes have a ton of work to do as the scene changes to Carolina for Games 3 and 4.

That one save

Game 2 was brutal for Petr Mrazek. It’s fair to wonder if Rod Brind’Amour should have replaced Mrazek for Curtis McElhinney heading into the third period, and it’s equally fair to ask if McElhinney should be the Game 3 starter. Yet, as bad as things were … at least Mrazek made this save.

Three Stars

1. Matt Grzelcyk

It could have been a short Game 2 for Grzelcyk, considering how hard that Micheal Ferland hit looked.

Instead, the blueliner enjoyed a standout afternoon, generating two of the Bruins’ first four goals (when the game was still reasonably competitive). That included the 1-0 icebreaker, an ugly-looking thing that Mrazek surely wishes he could have back.

Along with scoring two important goals, Grzelcyk logged 18:21 time on ice, delivered two hits, and blocked two shots. At this rate, people might not even feel anxious about misspelling his last name.

2. Charlie Coyle

Consider this the combined Charlie Coyle – Marcus Johansson entry.

Johansson’s work caught the eye in a more prominent way, as he did most of the work to make the 1-0 goal happen, and both of his points were primary assists.

Coyle deserves a mention, too, and he actually had one more point (three assists to Johansson’s two). It was a subtly effective all-around Game 2 for Coyle, as he enjoyed a +3 rating, went 12-3 on faceoffs, registered one hit, and one SOG in a modest 14:02 TOI.

The headlines (and amusing Dunkin’ Donuts commercials) go to Bruins’ top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak, but the Coyle – Johansson duo is really starting to click for Boston, allowing them to win games even when the top trio is being held in check. Carolina needs to find answers quickly, or the Bruins will go through them faster than Pastrnak polishes off a cold brew.

3. Torey Krug

With it being a relatively light day at the office for Tuukka Rask (two goals allowed on 23 shots, including a funky giveaway by Rask), it seems fairer to stick with skaters for the top three.

Krug had a strong Game 2, generating three assists. Two of Krug’s assists happened on Boston’s power-play goals, which occurred when the game was still on respectable street (the 4-0 stretch through the first 40 minutes).

Those three assists give Krug 11 points in 15 playoff games, tying Krug with Jaccob Slavin and Alex Pietrangelo for third place in scoring among defensemen. Krug is one point away from matching his career high of 12 postseason points, a mark he set during last year’s postseason.

Factoids

  • With Connor Clifton scoring his first career NHL goal, the Bruins have received at least one goal from 19 different players during their 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs run. That ties the Bruins’ franchise record for a single postseason, as Boston saw 19 players find the net in 1988.
  • As Capitals fans would like to forget, the Hurricanes have already come back from a 2-0 deficit, doing so in Round 1. They’re hoping to just be the third team to successfully fight back from 2-0 deficits during the same postseason. On the bright side, this parity-filled age is responsible for the two teams who’ve done it: the Bruins in 2011 and the Penguins in 2009.
  • The Bruins scoring 10 consecutive goals marks the fourth-best playoff run in team history. The best stretch was 18 consecutive goals, which they managed in 1969.

Monday’s game

Game 2: St. Louis Blues at San Jose Sharks (San Jose leads 1-0); 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN; stream here.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bruins dominate Hurricanes for 2-0 series lead

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The Boston Bruins weren’t exactly nurturing during a 6-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2 to take a 2-0 series lead on Mothers’ Day.

Controversy swirled around penalty calls that helped the Bruins turn Game 1 on its head, but there wasn’t a whole lot of drama in Game 2 beyond “should Rod Brind’Amour replace Petr Mrazek or keep Curtis McElhinney on the bench?” Yes, it was that kind of afternoon for the Carolina Hurricanes.

Honestly, that 6-2 score feels generous to Carolina, as both of the Hurricanes’ goals were of the late, “garbage” variety. Consider how dizzying the last four periods had been for Mrazek and the Carolina Hurricanes, aside from a faint push to save some face.

  • Heading into the third period of Game 1, the Hurricanes were up 2-1.
  • The Bruins scored all four goals of that third period to win Game 1 by a score of 5-2.
  • Things were close for most of the first period of Game 2, but then Boston fired in two quick goals.
  • The B’s fattened that lead to 4-0 through the second period, making a dazzling Mrazek stick save feel like a footnote.
  • Brind’Amour stuck with Mrazek in the third period, to some surprise. Things … well, didn’t get much better from there. The Bruins pushed things to 6-0 before allowing two goals when things were clearly out of reach.

Frankly, it would be more comforting for Carolina if the Hurricanes could merely blame everything on Mrazek. While he would regret some of the goals allowed – particularly the first of two by Matt Grzelcyk, and the first of Connor Clifton‘s career – the Hurricanes aren’t down 2-0 in this series because of leaky goaltending alone.

Carolina must address some key issues as Game 3 approaches on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN; stream here).

For one thing, the Bruins are absolutely dominating the special teams battle, to a greater extreme than expected.

Carrying over the momentum from scoring two power-play goals during that four-goal third period from Game 1, the Bruins went 2-for-2 on the power play in Game 2. Those power-play goals happened when the contest was still in doubt, really cementing the thought that the Bruins hold a significant advantage when it comes to the man advantage.

Failing on the penalty kill was rough enough for Carolina, yet the Hurricanes’ power play has been sputtering. They went 0-for-4 in Game 2, and in a telling moment, Patrice Bergeron set up Danton Heinen‘s goal shortly after leaving the penalty box on a failed Hurricanes power play.

Maybe the Hurricanes will gain a little bit of confidence from gaining two late goals in Game 2, even if they were generally inconsequential. If nothing else, the Hurricanes finally halted a dominant run for the Bruins, as Boston had scored 10 consecutive goals from the third period of Game 1 through much of Game 2.

Aside from that outburst in garbage time, the Hurricanes need to prove they can regularly threaten Tuukka Rask and the Bruins. The special teams battle needs to at least be closer to a draw, rather than the one-sided drubbing we’ve seen so far. And, yes, the Hurricanes must get some more saves — whether it’s Mrazek stopping those pucks, or if Carolina turns to Curtis McElhinney.

The Hurricanes found themselves down 2-0 against the defending champion Washington Capitals in Round 1, only to turn things around in front of rabid home fans to eventually win that series in seven games. In fact, the Hurricanes haven’t lost a home playoff game during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, so expect a far better effort from Carolina against Boston in Game 3 on Tuesday.

The frustrating and comforting thought is that Carolina hasn’t been anywhere near its best so far during the 2019 Eastern Conference Final, and it’s shown on the scoreboard.

Carolina doesn’t have a long time to figure things out, however, as the Bruins are looking almost unstoppable in Round 3.

The Hurricanes host the Bruins in Game 3 on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN; stream here).

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Mrazek is having lousy Game 2, but check out this stick save

So far, Game 2 of the 2019 Eastern Conference Final hasn’t exactly been kind to Carolina Hurricanes goalie Petr Mrazek.

The Hurricanes enter the second intermission down 4-0 after some mistakes by Petr Mrazek. The Boston Bruins’ 1-0 goal was one that Mrazek will find especially tough to stomach, as he was beaten from an odd angle by defenseman Matt Grzelcyk. The lowlight might have happened during the second period, as Mrazek appeared to be too aggressive trying to make an initial save, opening the door for Connor Clifton to score his first NHL goal (playoff or otherwise) on an essentially empty net.

Many expected Curtis McElhinney to draw in during the third period, but Rod Brind’Amour stuck with Mrazek. It didn’t really turn around, as Boston padded its lead before ultimately winning 6-2.

So, things haven’t gone so smoothly for Mrazek, particularly in Game 2, and generally since returning to the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs following an injury during the Round 2 series against the Islanders.

But even a slumping goalie can author a great moment. Mrazek made a remarkable save during the second period, possibly thanks in part to the aggressiveness that can maybe put him in a bad position every now and then. Check out that highlight reel save in the video above this post’s headline, particularly if you’re a Hurricanes fan who needs reassurance that Mrazek can come up with big stops here and there.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Penalties crush Hurricanes as Bruins storm back in Game 1

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The Carolina Hurricanes had their moments in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final, but penalties ended up being their Achilles’ heel in a 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins got on the board quickly thanks to Steven Kampfer, who was only in the game in the first place because Charlie McAvoy was serving a suspension. That lead was erased quickly though when Andrei Svechnikov‘s shot was deflected by Sebastian Aho just three seconds into a Hurricanes power play. Just like that, the score was 1-1 a mere 3:42 minutes into the contest.

Things calmed down after that until Greg McKegg charged hard into the net midway through the second period. Replays showed that he scored before colliding with Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask and the Bruins ultimately didn’t challenge the call, giving the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead.

Carolina’s edge wouldn’t hold though and it was largely due to a lack of discipline. Micheal Ferland was charged with interface late in the third and while the Hurricanes killed off that penalty, they weren’t so fortunate in the third. First Jordan Staal boarded Chris Wagner just 49 seconds into the frame. There might have been coincidental minors there as rookie defenseman Connor Clifton took exception to what Staal did, but Brad Marchand pulled Clifton back before the situation escalated.

That certainly isn’t a role Marchand is known for, but that wasn’t his only contribution in the period. He helped set up Marcus Johansson‘s game-tying goal on the ensuing power-play. When Dougie Hamilton took a roughing penalty at 2:41 of the third to put the Hurricanes in the box yet again, Marchand got another power-play assist, this time feeding the puck to Patrice Bergeron.

That said, the player who deserves the most credit on the Bergeron goal is arguably Jake DeBrusk, who collected the puck on his knees and got up while making the pass to Marchand to get that sequence going.

Hamilton took yet another penalty at 5:29 of the third, just to make life a little harder for the Hurricanes, but at least Carolina killed off that one. From there, the Hurricanes could not battle back. Brandon Carlo got an empty netter at 17:47 and Chris Wagner got one by Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek at 17:58.

Carolina can look back at this game as a missed opportunity to take one early in Boston. The silver lining for the Hurricanes is that this series has only begun.

Hurricanes-Bruins Game 2 from TD Garden will be Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

The Playoff Buzzer: Working overtime; Kadri over the line

  • The Scrappy Hurricanes forced overtime, but the defending champs persisted (with a Brooks Orpik OT game-winner[!]), as the Capitals came up clutch.
  • In a grinding affair where every goal mattered, the Predators tied things up with the Avalanche via Craig Smith‘s OT heroics.
  • The only Saturday game that didn’t go to OT, and wasn’t really competitive, involved the Bruins dominated the Maple Leafs. The violence was as much the story as anything else.
  • Calgary couldn’t steal one from the Avalanche, thanks to Nathan MacKinnon and Philipp Grubauer.

Capitals 4, Hurricanes 3 [OT] (Washington leads 2-0)

The Capitals are up two games, and in each case raced off to leads, but the Hurricanes have shown that they aren’t going down without a fight. Actually, without fights. They pushed this one to OT, but a broken stick and a broken play opened the door for Brooks Orpik to be an unlikely hero. Can the Hurricanes “storm surge” back into this series? Maybe, but Washington held serve … at worst.

Predators 2, Stars 1 [OT] (Series tied 1-1)

Nashville is a defensive-minded team, but compared to the Stars, they’re basically pushing the pedal to the metal. The Predators dominated the game from a shots on goal standpoint, yet it seemed like Ben Bishop might just steal a 2-0 series lead for Dallas. The Preds found a way to beat Bishop twice, and that was enough in a tight-checking, testy Game 2.

Bruins 4, Maple Leafs 1 (Series tied 1-1)

The final score was accurate, if not generous to a Toronto team that wasn’t often overmatched in Game 2. The Bruins stormed off to an early lead, and rarely looked back. It’s possible that both teams won’t be the same for a while after this one. Nazem Kadri could receive a significant suspension for his misdeeds. Other players might be injured thanks to the assorted violence, particularly Torey Krug and Connor Clifton. It was just a nasty, nasty affair.

Avalanche 3, Flames 2 [OT] (Series tied 1-1)

Mike Smith was brilliant once again, but so was Grubauer. It seemed like Calgary would gain a 2-0 lead, as the Flames went up 2-1 with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation. J.T. Compher‘s tying goal came in the closing minutes of the third, and then MacKinnon turned on the jets to win it for Colorado in Game 2. An impressive outing by the Avs, although there’s concern on defense if Samuel Girard is injured. MacKinnon’s up there when it comes to Avs stars producing early in their playoff careers.

Three Stars

1. Evgeny Kuznetsov/top Caps

It’s difficult to put together a consensus top three because a) no one scored more than two points and b) the best goalie performances probably came from Mike Smith and Ben Bishop, who were in net for losing teams. So let’s go with players who made the biggest difference in winning games, particularly the three of four Saturday Game 2 matchups that went to overtime.

You could make arguments for multiple Capitals; both Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie managed a goal and an assist apiece, while Alex Ovechkin and Kuznetsov managed two-point games. I’m giving Kuznetsov the nod because he set the table for Brooks Orpik’s overtime game-winner by recognizing that the Hurricanes were borderline-shorthanded with a broken stick, and making a great pass to land the primary assist.

I mean, just look at Orpik’s face.

2. Mikko Rantanen/MacKinnon

MacKinnon nabbed the highlight reel OT-winner, and that shot really was a work of art. Like Predators OT hero Craig Smith, MacKinnon also felt “due,” as he generated seven SOG. if it weren’t for Smith’s strong performance, MacKinnon likely would have finished with more points than that one goal.

Rantanen got an extra point, though. He had two assists in Game 2, helping to set up MacKinnon’s breakaway tally, and was also involved in the late third-period goal that sent the contest to overtime in the first place.

If Rantanen is close to 100 percent along with Gabriel Landeskog (who were both hurt and missed key games late in the regular season), then he can help open things up for MacKinnon, which means Colorado’s elite top line could be “back.” Not a ton of lines are better than Johnny Gaudreau‘s top line, but at times, that Mac-Rant trio can be just tat. And that could really swing things if Philipp Grubauer keeps up his outstanding play.

3. Brad Marchand

OK, Marchand’s assist – the second of his two points – basically came during the playoff equivalent of “garbage time.” And the Bruins didn’t quite need Marchand’s points like the players above were needed. You could probably argue that Calle Jarnkrok deserves this, or maybe Marchand’s goalie pal Tuukka Rask (30 out of 31 stops).

But Marchand had a goal and an assist with six SOG, and he didn’t do something reckless when a lot of reckless things were happening. He didn’t even get a penalty. Maybe Marchand truly has this whole reformed thing … licked.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Highlight of the Night

MacKinnon’s OT goal is just a delight to watch, and Sam Bennett‘s first of two assists was a no-look looker. So let’s just enjoy the highlights from the Avs’ 3-2 OT win, in general.

Lowlight of the Night

There were some questionable hits on Saturday, but Nazem Kadri’s was the most blatant, and might draw a significant suspension from the Department of Player Safety.

Fact of the Night

At 38 years and 199 days old, Brooks Orpik became the oldest defenseman in NHL history to score an overtime goal in the playoffs.

Sunday’s schedule

Game 3: Islanders at Penguins, 12 p.m. ET (Islanders lead 2-0) [NBC; Live stream]
Game 3: Jets at Blues, 7:30 p.m. ET (Blues lead 2-0) [CNBC; Live stream]
Game 3: Sharks at Golden Knights, 10 p.m. ET (Series tied 1-1): [NBCSN; Live stream]

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.