Before the puck was dropped on a pivotal Game 4 for the Boston Bruins in their best-of-seven series against the Carolina Hurricanes at the TD Garden Sunday afternoon, news broke that Charlie McAvoy was going to miss the game after being placed in COVID-19 protocols. Already down Hampus Lindholm for a second consecutive game after he took a hit in Game 2, the Bruins were going to be severely shorthanded on defense in a must-win game.
The Bruins responded as they generally do under coach Bruce Cassidy when facing adversity as they scored three third period goals for a 5-2 victory to even the series at 2-2. Game 5 is Tuesday night back in Carolina, but before we get ahead of ourselves with that, here are three takeaways from a Black and Gold win that gets even in a series where the home teams have won each of the first four games.
Bruins Perfection Line Leads the Way
One of the adjustments for Cassidy in Game 3 was putting back the first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak together and Sunday, then took over the game offensively for the Bruins. Marchand had a hand in each of the five Boston goals with two goals and three assists, Bergeron had a goal and two assists, while Pastrnak had one goal and one assist.
The offensive struggles the Bruins have had against Carolina this season have been noted several times. They were outscored 28-8 going into Game 4 and the very first lead that Boston has held at any point this season against the Hurricanes was not until the second period of Game 3 Friday night, the fifth meeting of the season between the regular season and playoffs. Twice in Game 4, the Bruins trailed only to answer each time against a team that they have struggled to find any offense against and it was the top line that the each answer.
Brett Pesce gave Carolina a 1-0 lead. with just under six minutes remaining in the first period, before Bergeron answered before the end of the period. In the second period, Jordan Staal gave the Hurricanes a 2-1 lead just 33 seconds into the period, before Jake DeBrusk answered on the power play for the Black and Gold with 1:22 left in the middle period, setting the stage for the Bruins three-goal third period.
In the last two games, the Bruins offense has looked different since Cassidy put the “Perfection Line” back together and Sunday, they came up in a big way multiple times to help even the series. They were buzzing in the offensive end and combined for 16 of Boston’s 28 shots on the net, with Pastrnak leading with six, while Marchand and Bergeron each had five. This line is going to have to continue to produce if they want to win two out of the next three games.
Swayman Bounces Back After Soft First Goal
Jeremy Swayman got the call for a second straight game and the 23-year-old was up to the challenge, despite being without McAvoy and Lindholm in front of him. Swayman made 24 saves in the game, but after allowing Pesce’s goal, a shot between his pads in the first period on a play where the Bruins really could have used a save, he was up to the challenge for the final 39:27 of the game after Staal’s goal early in the middle period.
Swayman stopped the final 15 shots he faced, including 10 in the third period after his team took the lead. In the two games he has played since taking over for Linus Ullmark, Swayman has stopped 49 of the 53 shots he has faced and the pressure of the playoffs has not got to him yet. That all can change in Game 5 on Tuesday if he gets the call from Cassidy, as it would be his first career playoff game on the road in a charged-up environment.
Without the services of McAvoy and Lindholm, Brandon Carlo and Derek Forbort stepped up and helped Swayman in the defensive end. Carlo had four hits and five blocked shots, while Forbort, fresh off of his nine-block Game 3, had five hits, and blocked one shot, while doing a nice job of clearing traffic in front of the net.
Bruins Win the Special Teams Battle
Stanley Cup Playoff games sometimes can come down to who wins the special teams battle and Sunday, the Bruins took advantage of many opportunities given to them by Carolina in terms of power plays. They went 2-for-9 on the man advantage, while the Hurricanes went scoreless in their five chances.
DeBrusk tied the game in the second period by stuffing home a loose puck in the crease, before Marchand scored the first of his two third period goals just 44 seconds into the final period with a wrist shot under the crossbar to put the Bruins ahead for good. On Marchand’s goal, Cassidy went with a five-forward power play, something he has done in previous seasons and worked out well. It’s not surprising that he went to that type of unit as it was a must-win game for his team.
What began as a best-of-seven series has now turned into a best-of-three with Game 5 Tuesday night in Carolina. Boston will most likely be without McAvoy and Lindholm’s status is still very much up in the air (from ‘Hampus Lindholm injury: Bruins defenseman improving, possible for Game 5,’ MassLive, 5/8/22). The formula will be the same if both players are out on defense, guys stepping up to fill gaps in the lineup, while the Bruins’ top players performing in an arena where the Black and Gold have struggled mightily. Both teams have held on their home ice and the first one to break through with a road victory will have the upper hand in the series. That has to be the Bruins if they want to advance past the Metropolitan Division winners.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.