Now that defenseman Dougie Hamilton has returned and provided production, the Carolina Hurricanes are feeling even better about their chances in their Eastern Conference first-round series.
The Hurricanes have shaken off the recent hex applied by the Boston Bruins and enter Game 3 of the best-of-seven series tied at 1-1 as the teams prepare to collide Saturday afternoon in Toronto.
“Most teams that don’t feel they gave their best in the playoffs usually bounce back the next night,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of the Hurricanes. “That’s why they’re in the playoffs. … (Now) it’s our turn to push back.”
Carolina won 3-2 on Thursday night on Hamilton’s tie-breaking goal in the third period.
“It just evens the series,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “It’s nothing to get overly excited about, but it gets us back to square one.”
And it shows that Hamilton, who was having an all-star season until suffering a broken leg in January, is ready to contribute again. His first game back in the lineup came in Wednesday’s rescheduled Game 1, so the former Boston player has had a busy stretch since returning to the ice.
“The rust factor you think would be there,” Brind’Amour said. “The minutes that he’s putting up there, that’s something we didn’t really expect. With that, he has really answered the bell.”
Hamilton adds another dimension for the Hurricanes.
“Dougie shoots the puck pretty well,” Cassidy said.
Until Thursday night, Boston had won six consecutive meetings against the Hurricanes, including a four-game sweep of the 2019 Eastern Conference finals and the lone regular-season meeting during this interrupted season.
“Last year they beat us and we have to give it (back) to them,” Hurricanes winger Andrei Svechnikov said.
The Bruins will wait to see the status of right winger David Pastrnak, who set up the winning goal in the second overtime of Game 1 and scored earlier in that contest. He missed Game 2 after appearing to be ailing as he left the postgame celebration following the series opener. He’s difficult to replace in the lineup, Cassidy said.
“They don’t believe it will be long-term thing,” the coach said. “It’s a day-to-day thing, we hope. We’re obviously targeting Saturday at noon. (Without a pregame skate), it will probably be right down to game time.”
The Hurricanes have been outplayed in stretches of the first two games. But they’ve also shown a resilient component, even in the double-overtime setback in Game 1. Game 2 came with challenges as well.
“There’s a lot at stake,” Brind’Amour said. “Things happen in the game and you have to be able to adapt and fight through it.”
Carolina has scored at least three goals in each of its first five postseason games.
Martin Necas supplied two assists on passes for the Hurricanes in Game 2. His play-making ability has shined at times.
“I felt a little bit more comfortable,” Necas said. “I still haven’t played that many games and every game I feel better.”
Boston, which didn’t lead in any of its three round-robin games for playoff seeding earlier this month, scored both its goals in Game 2 on power plays after going a combined 0-for-13 on power plays since the season resumed this month.
The Bruins racked up 15 third-period shots Thursday night for their most in any period in the series.
Carolina’s offense had a different tempo in the second game.
“They found some ways in there (closer) and they were a little bit more determined to get in there and they got some goals as a result,” Cassidy said.
The Hurricanes have received strong goaltending from Petr Mrazek and James Reimer, who logged the Game 2 victory. Brind’Amour has a choice to make.
“He has been dialed in,” he said of Mrazek.
–Field Level Media