RALEIGH, N.C. — For Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, the tone of a playoff series isn’t truly set until the pivotal moment that sparks animosity between the teams.
On Wednesday night, tension boiled over between the Bruins and Hurricanes in Game 2 of the first round. The Hurricanes, already down No. 1 goalie Frederik Andersen entering the series, lost their No. 2, Antti Raanta, in the first period. The Bruins lost key defenseman Hampus Lindholm in the second.
But after a 5-2 loss, the Bruins are in a two-game hole that may be too deep to climb out of. Game 3 is Friday night in Boston.
“It’s playoff hockey,” said Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron. “Tempers flared up and we’re going to do a better job being composed and disciplined.”
The Hurricanes capitalized on nine power-play opportunities, including three five on threes, scoring twice.
“Obviously, you can’t give him that many five on threes,” Bergeron said. “They’re going to make you pay. You want to play between the whistles and you want to play physical and hard, but you want to make sure it’s the right way because obviously tonight they scored some goals on the power play and it hurt us.”
The Hurricanes’ only question mark going into the playoffs was in net. Andersen (35-14-3, 2.17 goals-against average, .922 save percentage) missed the last six games of the regular season because of a lower-body injury. Without him, they turned to Raanta (15-5-4, 2.45, .912), who had never made a playoff start.
Raanta erased any doubts in Game 1, stopping 35 of 36 shots in a 5-1 win. He picked up where he left off in Game 2, stopping six straight shots in the first period, including two on the Bruins’ first power play.
But at the 7:47 mark, a freak play ended with Raanta laid out on the ice and ultimately going back to the dressing room and not returning.
An interference penalty on Tony DeAngelo gave the Bruins their second power play. Starving for an early goal, David Pastrnak dropped a pass to Taylor Hall and ran a fly route into the offensive zone. Hall sent a pass off the end boards. The bounce angled toward the net. Pastrnak followed it. When he realized his pursuit had him on a collision course with Raanta, he tried to brace for the hit. But when they made impact, Pastrnak struck Raanta in the face.
Raanta hit the ice and came up with a bloody mouth. The play landed Pastrnak in the penalty box for goalkeeper interference. Initially it was ruled a five-minute major, but it was reduced to a two-minute minor upon video review.
The Hurricanes turned to 22-year-old rookie Pyotr Kochetkov (30 saves), who had played just three games all season. Thrown into a pressure situation, Kochetkov initially was able to play relatively stress-free after being staked him to a two-goal lead.
“He’s got a good record, so I’m sure they believe in him,” Cassidy said. “Playoff hockey is a different animal, so I don’t know. They look pretty dialed in no matter what.”
Jesper Fast struck first, setting up inside the left circle and one-timing a pass from Jordan Staa past Linus Ullmark to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead at 13:03.
A little more than two minutes later, the Bruins paid for not protecting the puck in their defensive zone. A pass was sent around the net, but Jaccob Slavin picked it off. Almost instantly, the Hurricanes had three bodies in front of the net. Slavin found DeAngelo at the blue line. DeAngelo fired it into traffic and Sebastian Aho deflected it past Ullmark to make it 2-0.
The Hurricanes started the second period with a five-on-three power play as the Bruins had four players cramped in the penalty box. Bergeron was already in the box for slashing at 18:54. Charlie Coyle, Erik Haula, and Brandon Carlo joined him after earning roughing calls for a scrum at the end of the first period with Nino Niederreiter and Seth Jarvis, who also went to the box.
The Bruins killed Bergeron’s penalty but still had more than a minute of five on four to go. Bergeron was barely out of the box when the Hurricanes worked the puck to Aho, who ripped a slap shot past Ullmark from 38 feet.
The Hurricanes’ 3-0 lead all but sealed the Bruins’ fate. They hadn’t overcome a three-goal deficit all season.
The Bruins broke through on the power play at 14:57 of the second. After solid looks by Pastrnak and Brad Marchand, Bergeron punched in a rebound to cut the deficit to 3-1. But Bergeron seemed to be shaken up as the Bruins celebrated.
Niederreiter got the goal back for the Hurricanes with a power-play strike at 18:52.
For the second straight game, Ullmark gave up four goals.
“Obviously, we need a timely save,” Cassidy said. “There’s no doubt about it. We got better. We’re closer to scoring. We scored a couple. I thought the young kid [Kochetkov] did a real good job. We’ve got to have more than two.
“To me, it’s not too little, too late because you’re not on to the next city. It’s the same series. So once you start getting some confidence and knowing you can score, the other team realizes that, too.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.