The Bruins were hot for Noah Hanifin.
On June 26, 2015, after trading Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for a first-round pick and two second-rounders, general manager Don Sweeney pushed as hard as he could to get the chance to draft the Norwood native. Sweeney’s chase came up short.
So it was a kick below the belt when the 19-year-old roofed a shot over Tuukka Rask to give the Hurricanes a 2-1 shootout win at TD Garden on Tuesday. It left the Bruins one point shy of the two they wanted. On March 10, during Carolina’s last visit, Hanifin’s assist gave the Hurricanes a 3-2 overtime win.
The Bruins are tied with Detroit and Philadelphia with 91 points. But they remain out of the top eight because the Red Wings (third place in the Atlantic Division) and Flyers (second wild-card spot) have games in hand. The Bruins could really use the two points Hanifin pocketed over the last two meetings.
“There’s no doubt we needed those two points,” David Krejci said of Tuesday’s shootout loss. “Obviously we wanted them. But for some reason, we couldn’t put the puck in the net. Especially in the couple first two periods, we had a few really good scoring chances. It is what it is. We got a point. So what are we going to do now? Just regroup and get ready for Thursday.”
The Bruins host the Wings on Thursday. Detroit will be playing the second of back-to-back games. The Wings host the Flyers on Wednesday. The Bruins will be in better shape if one of the teams — preferably Philadelphia — wins in regulation. They do not need a three-point game in either direction.
The Bruins could have set themselves up for a more pleasant night of scouting Detroit had they grabbed two points against Carolina. The Bruins would have qualified for the playoffs with three wins this week, regardless of what their opponents would have done.
But the Bruins have no one else to blame but themselves for their sticky situation. They led Carolina in shots on net, 36-28. They got the better of the Hurricanes in attempts, 69-49. All but one of their chances went wide, thudded into Cam Ward, or got gobbled up by the shot-blocking Hurricanes. In the shootout, Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron, Loui Eriksson, and Torey Krug shot blanks against Ward.
They went 0 for 3 on the power play, landing just two shots on net over their first two man-up situations.
“I can answer 20 questions here or I can give you one thing: It’s an inability to finish,” said coach Claude Julien. “That’s the main thing here for tonight.”
There was an odd-man give-and-go rush between Krejci and Pastrnak that fizzled when the right wing’s return pass went through his center’s skates. There was the backdoor chance for Zdeno Chara that Brett Pesce busted up before Ward (35 saves) got a piece of the puck. There was the Brad Marchand net-front backhander that Ward sticked aside.
In the second period, Julien juggled his top three lines. He put Lee Stempniak back on the first line.
For every team, goal scoring hits peaks (11 goals against St. Louis and Chicago) and valleys (two against New Jersey and Carolina). It’s bottoming out at the worst possible time.
“It’s how hockey goes,” Marchand said. “Sometimes they go in. Sometimes they don’t.”
The only puck that eluded Ward was a cupcake that his teammates delivered to the Bruins, complete with a cherry on top. After Eriksson finished serving a tripping penalty in the third, he stepped out of the box to see Carolina executing a peewee line change with the puck headed toward their bench. Eriksson picked up steam and blew past Ron Hainsey and Jeff Skinner, who rolled over the boards with zero urgency. Eriksson careened toward the net, fooled Ward by faking backhand, then pulled the puck back to his forehand for a sweet tuck at 1:45 of the third.
Eriksson’s goal wiped out a first-period goof by Rask (27 saves). After Jaccob Slavin took a D-to-D pass from Justin Faulk, the defenseman snapped a shot from just inside the blue line. Rask was peeking high when he should have been looking low. The puck fluttered past Rask’s glove at 18:54 of the first, giving Carolina a 1-0 lead.
The Bruins allowed some other good chances in the first. But they corrected the big-time mistakes they were making against the Blues and Blackhawks. It’s a good sign heading into Thursday’s critical tilt against Detroit.
“St. Louis is a team that creates a lot of havoc around the net and gets second opportunities,” Rask said. “Chicago’s just great off the rush and gets odd-man rushes. Two different teams. Today, I thought defensively, we played better. The team’s going to get chances. But we minimized them pretty well tonight.”
The Bruins straightened out their defense against Carolina. They could not say the same about their offense.