David Pastrnak was watching from the stands. Tuukka Rask was on his way home.
And Jaroslav Halak’s lone major gaffe of the afternoon made it a one-goal game, late in the third. Carolina picked off his clearing attempt and tucked it into an empty net.
“Right away on the bench, Brad Marchand stands up,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “ ‘Hey, that’s not going to hurt us. We’re fine, we’re playing well.’ The whole bench was like that.
“When we’re playing Bruins hockey, that wasn’t going to deter us.”
Sixty minutes of emotion and energy, plus some otherwise outstanding work from Halak, earned them a 3-1 win in Game 3. The Bruins were again missing Pastrnak, their leading scorer, and their starting netminder Rask left the team to be with his young family. But they swung this first-round playoff series with the Hurricanes in favor of the Black and Gold, two games to one.
Informed the morning of the game he would spell his Vezina Trophy finalist teammate, Halak stopped 29 of 30 shots in his first true playoff game since 2015. The Bruins will continue to ride Halak in Game 4 on Monday (8 p.m.), and likely for the duration of this Stanley Cup run.
“Maybe this is Jaro’s year,” Cassidy said. “It’s certainly something we can rally around.”
Charlie Coyle, Sean Kuraly, and Marchand (empty net) provided the offense for the Bruins, who outshot the Hurricanes 32-15 in the final two periods after a sluggish start. David Krejci added two assists, on a day the Bruins had stiff upper lips and the back of their new starting goaltender.
As they boarded the team bus to Scotiabank Arena, Rask was not with them. The goalie who brought them to Game 7 of the Cup Final last year had informed management of his decision. Stuck in the Toronto bubble, away from his children — ages 6, 4, and four months — Rask could not focus on winning the Cup.
“We’re behind him and we understand,” said Patrice Bergeron, who has three children younger than 6. “Family comes first. Obviously, we’re a tight group in this locker room. We’ve been together for a while and supporting each other.”
Supporting each other meant pulling together for Halak, who turned back 15 shots in the first 20 minutes, including four on a Carolina power play beginning 12 seconds in. The Bruins killed 4 of 5 Hurricanes power plays. The Hurricanes’ only goal came when Halak tried to clear the puck up the middle of the ice in the third period, and Nino Niederreiter knocked it down and stuffed it into the vacated net with 13:30 left.
“Mistakes, they happen,” Halak said. “I know I gave them a little bit of life, but I think we responded the right way. And we kept playing our game until the end. You have to give credit to our guys, just stepping up. Guys coming into the lineup and playing hard. That’s playoff hockey.”
The Bruins did not have Pastrnak for the second game in a row. It did not go well at the start. They had seven shots on goal in the first, and zero scoring chances at five on five. But they kept skating —bottom-of-the-order grunts Par Lindholm, Joakim Nordstrom, and Connor Clifton each drew penalties — and had a 1-0 lead after 40 minutes of play.
After Nordstrom drew a double-minor for high-sticking late in the first period, the Bruins converted 14 seconds into the middle period. Krejci, who is having a spectacular postseason, laid a soft cross-corner dump into the Carolina end. Marchand flew in, lifted the stick of Brock McGinn, and put a shot high on Carolina netminder Petr Mrazek. Coyle bunted home the rebound out of mid-air.
Late in the second, the Bruins survived more than 50 seconds of Carolina possession on what amounted to a six on four, when Lindholm broke his stick while hacking McGinn. The resulting Hurricanes power play, which extended to the fresh ice of the third, wound up in the Bruins’ favor.
The Bruins stormed the Hurricanes in the third period, outshooting them 7-0, at the start. Kuraly, promoted to the third line with Coyle and the playoff debuting Jack Studnicka, deflected Coyle’s hard feed on a shorthanded two on one at 1:16 of the third.
Studnicka, playing in place of the scratched Nick Ritchie, nearly scored on a turnaround from the slot in the second. He showed quick hands and quick thinking in transition. Clifton, subbing for Jeremy Lauzon on the third defense pair, brought plenty of jam (five hits).
“Proud of Jaro for answering the call on short notice,” Cassidy said. “Proud of the young guys that are playing, like Lindholm, and not that he’s young, but it’s you know his first real [action]. Jack Studnicka, Clifton comes into the lineup, proud of the way they responded and proud of the way the whole team played.”
Carolina, which lost rising star Andrei Svechnikov to an apparent right leg injury in the third period, squandered a 36-save effort from Mrazek, who returned to the net after James Reimer replaced him in Game 2. They could not build on an excellent first period, thanks to a faulty power play and a Bruins club that is reminding all of its depth and talent.
“It was right there for us,” Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “And then we just, we let off the gas a little. That team is too good. If you give them an inch, they’re taking a mile.”
Matt Porter can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyports.