Even as the Bruins fell behind two games to none, even as the odds and the history tilted against them, they braced themselves for the long game.
Carolina was clearly formidable. Three regular-season losses made that clear to the Bruins.
But the Hurricanes were an upstart. The Bruins were a team with postseason war stories.
Add this one to the list.
The Bruins forced Game 7 with a 5-2 win Thursday at TD Garden.
“I love it,” said Bruin coach Bruce Cassidy. “This is what you play for. Guys should be excited. Game 7, Stanley Cup playoffs. Home or road. We’d rather be at home, not going to lie to you, but we’d play them on Mars if we had to. That’s what it’s all about. I’m sure they’d say the same thing.”
Faced with a winner-takes-all scenario, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour understood the unpredictability of a Game 7.
“You never know what can happen,” he said. “You just don’t know ... The good news is we have another game to play.”
“We got down and, instead of just sticking with it, we tried to do too much,” Brind’Amour said.
If experience matters in Game 7s, Boston has it by a landslide.
This will be the Bruins’ 29th in franchise history. The Canes have been in nine. In fact, the Bruins have faced more Game 7s since 2010 than the Canes have in franchise history.
The Bruins are 15-13 all-time in Game 7s. They’re 1-4 in Game 7s on the road. The last time they had to go the distance, of course, was in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final when they lost, 4-1, to St. Louis.
“It’s going to be a battle,” said Charlie Coyle. “It’s going to be a battle. Who wants it more. Game 7. These are the games you play for and you want to play in. So we’re excited. We’ve got to come in and take one in their building, so it’s a great opportunity to do that.”
“It’s going to be a battle,” Coyle said. “It’s going to be a battle. Who wants it more. Game 7. These are the games you play for and you want to play in. So we’re excited. We’ve got to come in and take one in their building, so it’s a great opportunity to do that.”
To force this series to the max, the Bruins finally got the start they were looking for.
Brad Marchand gave the Bruins what they desperately needed with his breakaway goal 46 seconds into the second period.
The Hurricanes had scored first in each of the previous five games in the series. For once, the Bruins didn’t have to play from behind.
The problem? One penalty after another.
A tripping call on Trent Frederic at 9:08 put the Canes on a power play and a hooking call on Charlie McAvoy at 10:!5 made it 5 on 3.
But a Bruins penalty kill that’s been a savior for much of the series came through again, leaving the Canes empty-handed.
The kill had to go right back to work at 13:36 when Erik Haula was called for high-sticking Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
Coming into Thursday, the Tampa Bay Lightning (28) were the only team in the playoffs with more power-play opportunities than the Hurricanes (27).
The bulk of Carolina’s chances came at home (17).
As lopsided as some of the games have been, special teams have been a central element of the series. No other matchup has combined for more power-play chances.
The Bruins killed four penalties in the period.
“Every mistake we made, it felt like they capitalized,” Brind’Amour said.
Coming in, their penalty kill was 4 for 27 and their 85.2 kill rate was the third-best clip in the postseason behind Washington and Dallas.
“It’s been a series where we’ve been killing a lot of penalties,” Cassidy said. “Hopefully that is stemmed a little as we got to Carolina for Game 7.”
They were rewarded for it when Brett Pesce went to the box for holding Jake DeBrusk, giving them their second power-play of the game at 16:58 in the second.
Charlie Coyle gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead with his second goal of the series. He corralled the puck after David Pastrnak’s shot from the left circle ricocheted off Ian Cole and punched it past Antti Raanta before Raanta could turn around.
Up 2-0 going into the third, the Bruins’ only job was to hold on. A two-goal lead has been essentially insurmountable in these playoffs (the Penguins are the only team to overcome one).
The Canes threatened to change that in the third when Andrei Svechnikov got behind the Bruins’ defense, took a feed from Seth Jarvis, and netted a goal that cut the deficit in half at the 3:24 mark.
But Erik Haula’s goal at 7:08, a one-timer off a pass from Charlie McAvoy, gave the Bruins room to breath again with a 3-1 lead. Derek Forbort padded it with his first goal of the series at 10:43. And Curtis Lazar kicked more dirt with a score at 15:43. Svechnikov’s goal didn’t make the final score any prettier, but both teams agree that all the games are closer than the scoreboard’s shown.
“The score’s been lopsided in all of them, but I think the games were tighter,” Brind’Amour said. “It’s just weird the way the bounces went.”
As far as morale, the Canes left Boston low. But getting back to PNC Arena should give them a charge, Brind’Amour said.
“Right now, it’s tough,” he said. “It should feel brutal, to be honest with you. Then you wake up and you feel excited that you have an opportunity.”
Neither team has won a road game in the series. To move on, the Bruins will have to find a way to make it happen.
“We’ve got to win, now, one road game,” Cassidy said. “That’s what’s in front of us. We knew that when we started the series. You have to win a road game — at least one — if we wanted to win. So here it is.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.