Sebastian Aho saw the two-on-one developing midway through the first period of the Bruins’ 5-2 win in Game 6 as soon as Seth Jarvis picked off a pass in the Bruins’ offensive zone. Jarvis upped the puck to Aho and broke off to the middle of the ice to put Hampus Lindholm in a tricky spot.
With the Bruins facing elimination Thursday at TD Garden in Game 6 of their first-round series against the Carolina Hurricanes, Lindholm returned to the ice for the first time since taking a brutal hit from Andrei Svechnikov in Game 2.
His instincts showed no signs of rust.
Lindholm jostled his stick between Aho and Jarvis, making Aho think twice about making a quick pass. The misdirection bought Lindholm enough time to be in position to snag the puck when Aho eventually did try to dish it.
As soon as he had the puck on his blade, Lindholm tried to get it out to Charlie McAvoy, who was swooping in on the tail end of the play.
McAvoy, playing his second game since being cleared from COVID protocols two days after entering, spotted a check he could finish.
As McAvoy took the pass, Aho tried to break it up. Instead, Aho got wiped out with a shoulder-to-shoulder hit from McAvoy that sent Aho spinning to the ice, losing his stick and clutching his helmet before eventually getting to his feet.
“He came right back up, but that could’ve been scary, for sure,” said Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour.
Aho chalked up the hit to the time of year.
“Obviously, good hit by him,” Aho said. “Caught me kind of off guard. A big hit, but it is what it is. It’s playoff hockey. You’ve got to expect to have a couple of those.”
The hit sent a charge through TD Garden. The McAvoy-Lindholm pair, whose time together had been limited this series, also gave the Bruins a lift they had been looking for from the blue line.
“They’re just good players with good hockey IQ that want the puck,” Cassidy said.
The Bruins forced a Game 7 and, after watching the Bruins even the series with wins at home in Games 3 and 4 only to fall behind on the road in Game 5, Lindholm was glad to get back on the ice.
“This time of year, you want to be out there,” Lindholm said. “I would probably rank myself the worst guy watching hockey. It’s not fun sitting in the stands or watching at home from the TV.”
Rather than dwell on whether the hit by Svechnikov in Game 2 was clean, Lindholm chose to move forward.
“Obviously, you can tell that he wants a hit,” he said. “But it’s the playoffs. That’s almost like a week ago now. So that’s in the past.”
Lindholm said he began to feel normal fairly quickly after the hit. He skated with the team during practices while he was out.
“Luckily, I’m in good shape enough to take it in a good way,” he said. “And luckily I didn’t take worse.”
After shaking up the lines the previous three games, Cassidy returned to the look he went with for most of the second half.
Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and Jake DeBrusk were back on the top line. David Pastrnak went back to the second line with Taylor Hall and Erik Haula. Trent Frederic, Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith reunited on the third line and Nick Foligno Tomas Nosek, and Curtis Lazar filled out the fourth.
“That’s just going back to what we were successful [with] going back to the second half of the year — how we started the series essentially,” Cassidy said. “We made an adjustment in Game 3 we felt we needed to make. But we always felt we’d like to get back to when we were playing our best hockey.”
The change worked. The Bruins got production across all lines. Marchand scored his fourth goal of the series. Coyle added a power-play goal. Haula, Derek Forbort and Lazar each scored their first goals of the series.
“There was a lot of talk about what happened earlier in the year,” Cassidy said. “We had to sort of block out some noise and sometimes that’s difficult for players. So we went back to a formula which we knew has been successful for us.”
Cassidy’s pushed all the right buttons since the Bruins fell behind 2-0. With a Game 7 on Saturday, he’ll try to do the same.
“You change lines for a reason through the course of the playoffs,” Cassidy said. “You hope you make the right call for the right reasons and tonight it worked out for us. And we’ll do what we have to do in Game 7.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.