RALEIGH, N.C. — The Bruins were back on Tobacco Road Wednesday and, come night’s end, it looked as if their playoff season went up in smoke.
Once again unable to handle Carolina’s unremitting speed and opportunistic scoring touch, the Bruins fell behind by two goals in the first period and suffered a 5-2 loss that left them in an 0-2 deficit in their best-of-seven first-round series with the former Hartford Whalers.
The Bruins also didn’t have an answer for the Hurricanes’ chippiness and aggression, which included a heavy, shoulder-to-chin hit by Andrei Svechnikov on defenseman Hampus Lindholm late in the second period.
It left the Bruins with a huge hole on their backline, and Lindholm, believed to be concussed, will be out for a while, possibly the remainder of the postseason.
Coach Bruce Cassidy was vague with his postgame comments when asked if the rubber-legged Lindholm was hospitalized, and equally vague when asked if Lindholm would be on the club’s charter flight home.
“I don’t have an answer, to be honest with you,” Cassidy said.
“I saw him earlier, and talked to him right after the incident,” added Cassidy when asked about possible hospitalization.
Other observations from Game 2:
▪ A rash of Bruins penalties three times set up the Canes on five-on-three power plays. One sure way to lose at any time of the season: place the opposition two men up on the advantage.
The Canes finished 2 for 9 on the advantage over 12:43 of PP time (more than 20 percent of the game). The Bruins, meanwhile, went 1 for 5 over 6:40.
In a throwback look to the Bruins-Maple Leafs series of 1969, the Bruins late in the second had four men in the penalty box. Bruins fans of a certain age, forced to squint, swore they could see Johnny “Pie” McKenzie serving a double minor for roughing.
Rare to see a Bruins team lose its composure.
“Good question,” said captain Patrice Bergeron when asked about the vanishing composure. “Playoff hockey … tempers flared up … we have to do a better job of being composed and disciplined. Obviously, you can’t give them that many five-on-threes. They’re going to make you pay. You want to play physical and hard, but you want to make sure it’s the right way … they scored some goals on the power play and it hurt us.”
▪ The Bruins entered the night knowing they had to be more aggressive, especially in the offensive end, along the walls, and around the net.
With less than eight minutes gone in the first, and working with a power play, they got overzealous and lost control of the night.
David Pastrnak, racing to track down a home run pass from the neutral zone by Taylor Hall, clipped Antti Raanta’s left leg, dropping the Canes tender flat in the crease.
Raanta, leaking blood around his mouth, headed to the room and was done for the night, relieved by Pyotr Kochetkov. It negated the Boston power play, and it set the stage for a gargantuan momentum shift the Canes’ way.
In less than eight minutes, the Canes had a 2-0 lead, setting up a stranglehold in the series.
The pass attempt by Hall came, in part, due to the trouble the Bruins have had on their power-play entries . The long feed got the puck in deep, but the Pastrnak-Raanta collision immediately negated the step forward.
The Bruins’ Poseidon-like power play went 0 for 3 in the series opener. They went 0 for 39 during a stretch in which they were stymied across 12-plus games (and 66 minutes, 4 seconds) into the final week of the regular season.
▪ The Canes have two gears: fast and faster. No one in the league plays like them. And they execute at speed. Anyone new to coach Rod Brind’Amour’s laser show system needs time to adjust.
“Yeah, yeah, for sure,” said Max Domi, acquired from the Blue Jackets at the trade deadline for extra moxie. “When I first got here, there were like 20 games left, and the coaching staff just said, ‘Whatever you do, just get used to this, get ready to go, and that was [right away].’ Overall, you get your feet wet, and it takes some time for sure.”
Back at home for Game 3 Friday night, the Bruins might be able to slow down Carolina a little with Cassidy allowed to find better line matchups.
Bergeron (two goals) again was underwater (40 percent) at the faceoff dot, often going against Jordan Staal. Cassidy will want to steer Bergeron’s line clear of the Staal trio that includes Nino Niederreiter and Jesper Fast.
The speed game places the obvious demand on conditioning, strength and endurance, but there is also a mental component.
“A little bit of both,” noted Domi, “you know, just getting the lungs, the speed and legs, and then correlate that with your brain to make the right decisions and right reads. It just takes some reps and experience.”
The Bruins aren’t slow, but they haven’t been the equal of Carolina’s fast-forward approach.
▪ Postgame, Cassidy noted the Canes again got timely saves, while the Bruins did not.
In two games, Linus Ullmark has yielded eight goals on 57 shots, for a lackluster .860 save percentage. Cassidy will meet with the media Thursday morning in Brighton, but likely won’t announce his Game 3 starter until Friday morning. He’ll probably go with rookie Jeremy Swayman.
Cassidy also likely will find a new left winger for the No. 3 line with Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith. Trent Frederic was benched after a bad penalty in the second — he logged only 6:00 for the night — and Anton Blidh would be the likely replacement.
With Lindholm down, look for Mike Reilly to draw back into the six-pack, be it with Charlie McAvoy or Brandon Carlo.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.