Perennial playoff heroes aren’t easy to come by and the Boston Bruins are fortunate to have a few of them. Once again the Bruins were powered by veteran centers David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, as Boston closed out the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1 in game 5.
Carolina came out surging to open the game knowing it was do-or-die time for their season. Their effort was rewarded at 9:35 of the opening period when defenseman Haydn Fleury blasted a slap-shot over the shoulder of Jaroslav Halak (23 saves). Fleury’s goal, from the top of the right circle, was his second of the series. The assists went to Sebastian Aho and Jordan Martinook.
In the second, the two teams traded scoring chances in a wild, frenetic stretch early on. With David Pastrnak in the penalty box for Hooking at 1:49 Carolina peppered Halak with a flurry of activity in front of the Bruins goal. While Halak was on his backside, head’s up defending by Zdeno Chara stopped the puck on the goal line. A clearing feed by the Bruins penalty kill sprung Pastrnak as he exited the penalty box. The Czech winger ran out of space as he closed in on ‘Canes goalie and countryman Petr Mrazek.
Carolina’s Aho was called for Hooking at 13:47. Boston’s power play struck at 14:40 when Krejci banked in a loose puck at the top of the Hurricanes crease. Bergeron’s shot from the right circle was blocked by Pastrnak’s leg and bounced right to the waiting center. The goal was Krejci’s third of the series.
Once again the Bruins power play would make Carolina pay. Martinook was sent off for Roughing at 19:10. Boston had a few good looks but Mrazek was on his game. And then he wasn’t. After stopping a Pastrnak wrist shot, the rebound bounced into the corner as time expired. Bergeron gave chase, looked towards the front of the net, and fired a no-look shot off of a relaxed Mrazek with four seconds left in the period. 2-1 Bruins, Pastrnak, and Krejci were credited with the assists.
“I saw that he was kind of – he stood up. He was standing up. So, I was just trying to catch him –throw it at his feet and see what happens. I knew that there wasn’t that much time left in the period,” said Bergeron of his eventual game-winning goal. “So, I said, why not try it, just because it was kind of a desperate play with a couple seconds left. I knew we couldn’t really set it up and have another shot, so I was just trying to put it on net and catch him standing up.”
“We got lucky on that one and I’ll take it,” added a smiling Bergeron.
The third period was rather anti-climactic as Boston weathered the Carolina storm towards the end of the game. Halak continued his steady play in the Bruins net while the team defense limited the ‘Canes to just six third period shots. Boston outshot Carolina 27-24 for the game.
“They know what’s at stake. I mean I think they’ve been around long enough to know that when you get a chance to close out a team you have to take advantage of it,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy of his veterans. “Not that by any means this was our best game, I thought Carolina had some tough luck around the net, they came ready to play, they were better than us early on, but we found our game. Our special teams came through for us, which you know has been a strength of ours all year and tonight we needed it and it showed. And Jaro [Halak] was terrific tracking pucks, making the saves when we needed them and really looked comfortable in the net tonight. So another veteran guy that didn’t get rattled and helped us get through the tough times. So credit to those guys for sure.”
Despite losing, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour was able to see the positive for his squad.
“Well, I think we played at a level to beat them. I feel like I’m really proud of this team. I mean they (Boston) do it right. And you know we responded, which is the best thing. We walk out of here I think with our head high with the effort that we put out there, especially tonight I thought we were the better team. You know they got a couple of funny bounces and we couldn’t get a break on the bounces,” said Brind’Amour. “You know the maturity of our group from last year to this year we took a huge step. We’ve closed the gap here I think from the elite teams. I think we’re closing in and once we learn like I said the other night as long as we learn you know what it takes to win, which I think we are and we have this series, I think it’s going to help this group moving forward. Again just really proud of this team.”
With that Carolina exits the NHL Toronto Bubble to begin their short “off-season” and Boston moves on to a yet to be determined opponent in the second round.