RALEIGH, N.C. — The Bruins had the veteran savvy in this series, the know-how to get it done. Or at least they believed they did.
When it counted, the Hurricanes made them play a Carolina-style game.
Once again, the Bruins fell behind. Once again, they went into chase mode. For a fourth and final time at PNC Arena in this series, they struggled to get much going offensively against a club that gleefully kept mashing the pedal and tightening its grip.
The Bruins couldn’t bury an early 2 on 1. They broke down defensively on two of the three goals allowed. That the third line was at fault for both of them magnified the club’s familiar issues — production and consistent play beyond the top players.
The Hurricanes, who will face either the Rangers or Penguins in the second round, won 3-2 in Game 7 by being a step ahead. After three second-round appearances and a Stanley Cup Final trip (2019) in Bruce Cassidy’s tenure, the Bruins were bounced out of the first round for the first time since 2017.
“You’re in a Game 7,” Cassidy said, “have an opportunity to advance with a good group that’s gotten better as the year went on, and you don’t.”
They scored six goals in four games here, David Pastrnak’s goal with 21.7 seconds left coming too little, too late in a 6 on 5 frenzy.
Patrice Bergeron had a chance to tie in the final seconds, shortly after winning a faceoff against Jordan Staal at center ice. Wouldn’t that have been something?
Bergeron, his future unclear, got a hug from every Bruin coming off the ice.
Observations from Game 7:
▪ As they did in six of seven games in this series, the Bruins allowed the first goal. As they did in all four games here, they went down, 2-0. There must be a secret to winning in Carolina, but that is not it.
The Bruins, who last overcame a two-goal deficit after 40 minutes on Jan. 1 in Buffalo (4-3 win), finished 1-14-0 when trailing after two periods.
Handing a lead to the Hurricanes, specifically, is foolish because they happily play a dump-and-chase game. They’re fast through the neutral zone. They made the Bruins climb uphill to get into the offensive zone.
Quick-strike offense built the Hurricanes’ lead. The Bruins, who had one of the best chances of the game midway through the first – Antti Raanta made a right-pad stop on a quick-developing 2 on 1 from Erik Haula to Taylor Hall – couldn’t generate a consistent attack.
▪ The Hurricanes had early success with the low-to-high play, which delivered their first two goals. At 18:36 of the first, Mike Reilly chased the puck-carrier (Vincent Trocheck) behind the Bruins’ net, and no one bothered Jaccob Slavin at the point or Max Domi at the doorstep. The defenseman went long to Domi, who slipped it to Teuvo Teravainen for a 1-0 lead.
▪ The Bruins survived a four-minute penalty kill late in the first. With 58 seconds left, Taylor Hall cross-checked Tony DeAngelo in the face. Stick fouls in the offensive zone: never ideal. The Bruins killed off 3:03 at the start of the to kill to start the second period. There were no penalties in the second period, the only 20-minute stretch of the series in which no one was whistled. After some ticky-tack stuff early, the refs let ‘em play.
▪ Carolina (0 for 3 PP, 5 for 36 this series) might not have scored on the man-up, but it didn’t need a power play to extend the lead. It had the low-to-high play. It was another point shot (Brady Skjei) and a deflection by Jordan Staal, whose tip attempt went wide. Domi was there to clean it up at 3:14.
▪ The Bruins got a bounce, and got one back, 1:50 later. Big credit to Charlie McAvoy, who stepped up to push the puck into the zone and cruised the center lane. Patrice Bergeron whipped the puck into the slot. It ticked off McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk was quicker than Brady Skjei in smacking it home.
▪ The third line was invisible beyond a flurry early in the third. Charlie Coyle was on the ice for all three Carolina goals. Neither he nor Craig Smith recorded a shot attempt. Trent Frederic (two shots) rang the right post, but it came as a footnote to the 3-1 goal.
Domi, who was available for pennies at the trade deadline, scored his second of the night at 10:33, right after Frederic’s ping. The third line was late in the defensive zone as Teravainen found a cutting Domi in the slot.
▪ Referees Chris Lee and Steve Kozari put their whistles away in the second and third periods. Early in the third, they neglected to call a Brendan Smith elbow to David Pastrnak’s head. They let go multiple would-be trips on both sides. The Bruins didn’t have a power play in Game 7 until Brendan Smith dumped the puck over the glass with 6:27 left.
▪ The power play, which let down the Bruins time after time this season, couldn’t make a dent. They finished 6 for 27 in the series, with some bright moments, but not enough impact when needed most.