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Charlie McAvoy’s crunching check helped the Bruins hit their stride against the Hurricanes

Charlie McAvoy's big hit on the Hurricanes' Jordan Staal was a key play for the Bruins, who tied the game moments later and eventually seized control of the series with their 4-3 comeback win.Nathan Denette/Associated Press

Jaroslav Halak clearly wasn’t up to stealing a win Monday night in the Boston net. In fact, he came close to gift-wrapping the Hurricanes a win that would have left the Bruins in a 2-2 series tie.

What ultimately bailed out Halak, and left the Bruins poised to clinch the series, was a four-goal explosion in the third period that was wrapped around Charlie McAvoy’s pulverizing, derriere-first check on Jordan Staal that ended the veteran center’s night with 9:56 to go in the third period.

The check, which clobbered Staal as he played the puck in his defensive end, was one of the ol-timey John Bucyk cement-mixer hits. Staal folded up, left the ice under his own power, but looked as though he might have suffered whiplash or a concussion.


Charlie McAvoy's big hit played a sizable role in Monday's win.Elsa/Getty

“We were very aware,” said Brad Marchand, asked how the hit, and Staal’s departure, was received on the Boston bench. “You never want to see a guy get hurt — hope he’s OK. But he’s a big player for that team. He plays hard minutes. He’s a shut-down guy, plays all situation. It’s a tough guy for them to lose.”

The Canes totally collapsed in the wake of Staal’s departure. Connor Clifton hammered home the 2-2 equalizer only 14 seconds later, at which point Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour called a timeout in hopes his club could regain its composure.

Nothing doing. Only 90 seconds later, off a neat sidewall bank by Torey Krug, Marchand swept from the right side and pushed a doorstep forehander through the pads of James Reimer to make it 3-2. Less than three minutes later, Jake DeBrusk popped home his second of the night — and second in a span of 6:43 — for the insurance goal.

“We were looking to create some energy,” said McAvoy. “It was an opportunity to step up and make a hit, try to separate a man from the puck. We were already playing well.


“To see so many guys step up tonight and make plays when it really mattered, to get us a win, was just so awesome to see. It really lifted the spirit of the team.”

Halak, making his second consecutive start since Tuukka Rask’s abrupt departure from the hub, allowed the first of two softies at 9:17 of the first, Justin Williams connecting on a wrister from above the left circle.

Soft serve No. 2 was delivered by fourth-liner Jordan Martinook, who connected off the rush, again a wrister from the left side. Halak twice failed on his glove side, letting in shots that easily could have been blocked or gloved.

“I think they are both pucks he typically saves,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “Both stoppable pucks. Certainly the first one. The second one, the guy’s coming with some speed …

“But at the end of the day, we kept playing. You’ve got to play through some stuff. The guys in the room know you win as a team, lose as a team. I am sure they wanted to pick Jaro up, and eventually the puck bounced our way.”

Carolina's Jordan Martinook (right) scores on Jaroslav Halak in the second period.Nathan Denette/Associated Press

Martinook’s goal stung a little extra because it came 37 seconds after the Bruins pressed, pressed, and pressed some more on a two-minute power play that bottled up the Canes in their own end for the full 2:00. It looked like the Bruins, even though they didn’t score, could build some traction off the strong PP. Instead, the Canes found easy passage up ice and an even easier time with the shot Martinook blew by Halak.


It was the first time in the series that the Canes forged a two-goal lead. When the night began, the Bruins held a lopsided advantage in lead time: 68:28 to 7:57. It was also the first time in the series that the Bruins failed to score in the first two periods.

The night opened on a promising note, the Bruins piling up four shots on a power play they were awarded at 1:38 of the first, Ryan Dzingel whistled off at 1:38 for a high stick. When the PP came to end, the Bruins went the final 16 minutes with only one shot on net.

The Williams goal, the 41st postseason strike of his lengthy career, came on the Canes’ first shot of the night, with the period near its midpoint. Those hurt.

Cassidy, unhappy with the stagnant offense, wasted not time in changing the mix, opening the second period with Charlie Coyle moved up to the top line with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. The moved dropped Anders Bjork to the third line, where he rode with Sean Kuraly (shifted to Coyle’s center spot) and rookie Jack Studnicka.

On Sunday, Cassidy hinted that he might not start Bjork again on the top line. The former Notre Dame standout picked up three penalties in Saturday’s win, the third coming at the 5:00 mark of the third period. Bjork sat for the rest of the night.


One of Cassidy’s strongest traits, similar to legendary coach Scotty Bowman, is shaking up his trios when the offense goes stale. The move to put Coyle to the top of the order didn’t click right away, but it at least gave the Canes something to think about. It’s a line, given time, that can deliver some pop.

The problem with pushing Coyle out of the No. 3 center spot, in general, is that it weakens the bottom six of the order. Kuraly is a strong No. 4 center, a role that calls for more crash and bang than finesse. In the No. 3 center role, working between Bjork and Studnicka, he needs to use more of his playmaking ability — passing and shooting skills that are not on par with Coyle’s.

Brad Marchand celebrates after scoring the go-ahead in the third period.Elsa/Getty

Joakim Nordstrom, an ex-Cane, won’t ever shine in a goal-scoring role, though he did spend a brief time on Carolina’s No. 1 line in his Raleigh days. But he excels in the crash-and-bang role on Boston’s fourth line. On a night when the puck wasn’t going in the net, Nordstrom was noticeable for his speed and overall feistiness. Keep in mind, he’s playing on an expiring contract and will be an unrestricted free agent in October.

DeBrusk made his way off the witness protection list with 7:26 gone in the third period, breaking James Reimer’s shutout bid with his chip-and-chase play around defenseman Haydn Fleury. DeBrusk pushed the puck around Fleury high in the zone, barreled down the slot, then deked left to avoid Reimer’s sliding poke attempt. As he fell, DeBrusk swept a forehander into the wide-open net. Nice play. Maybe it will get him going.


Clifton tied it, 2-2, at 10:10 of the third, ripping home a slapper from the right side on one of Nordstrom’s grinding plays. Nordstrom took control in the rear wall after a good forecheck by linemate Chris Wagner, then darted out from Reimer’s left side to deliver a perfect dish that Clifton launched to the top right corner.

Marchand delivered the jawbreaker at 11:40, racing in all alone off right wing with the Torey Krug feed and scoring with a doorstep forehander through Reimer’s pads.

DeBrusk was back for seconds at 14:17, finishing in front after an alert feed from Ondrej Kase (his name keeps showing up, doesn’t it?).

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at kevin.dupont@globe.com.