RALEIGH, N.C. — Tuesday night at PNC Arena began with a stalemate.
Neither the Bruins nor the Carolina Hurricanes managed to get on the board after the opening 20 minutes of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. But that’s not to say the Hurricanes didn’t have their chances to strike first.
Firing on all cylinders in front of their home crowd, the Hurricanes dominated the Bruins in shots on goal, 20-6, and in overall shot attempts, 33-8, to start the game.
“Obviously, you need to get something out of that period,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said after Carolina’s 2-1 loss, pushing the Hurricanes to the brink of elimination in the best-of-seven series. “Obviously.”
“I’m kind of at a loss for words right now,” added defenseman Calvin de Haan, who scored the team’s lone goal. “I thought we were the better team tonight. But that’s hockey. We lost the game, and it’s about wins and losses this time of year.”
Despite over four minutes of 5-on-4, 69 seconds of 4-on-3, and 45 seconds of 5-on-3, the Hurricanes came up empty following each of their man-up advantages. Carolina’s power play, which ranked 20th in the league during the regular season, continued to come up short this postseason. In 14 playoff games, the Hurricanes have converted just 5 of their 49 opportunities (10.2 percent).
“Not getting anything is a little bit demoralizing,” Brind’Amour said. “You got to come away with something with all that we had going on in the first.”
To make matters worse, the Hurricanes were whistled for four first-period penalties of their own — three of which came at the hands of team captain Justin Williams. After getting into it with Bruins left winger Brad Marchand in Game 2, Williams seemed to acquire a new foe in defenseman Torey Krug for Game 3. The 37-year-old veteran was sent to the box for roughing, holding the stick, and elbowing.
After a scramble in front of Carolina’s goal at one point, he was also spotted punching the back of right winger David Backes’s head — twice.
Williams didn’t have much to say about his interactions with Krug.
Did he feel like the pair got tied up?
“No,” Williams said. “Nope.”
Brind’Amour agreed Williams’s elbow was a bit high on Krug but seemed to attribute the rest of his behavior to competitiveness.
“They were calling it tight,” Brind’Amour said. “He has to understand how they’re calling it. Generally, in the playoffs, you think they’re going to let it go a little bit more. There’s a lot of ticky-tacky penalties there, but they’re calling them. You got to understand that. [Justin’s] just trying to win. He’s giving it everything he has.”
Regardless of the result, several players noted that the team was able to play more of its game, specifically highlighting the pace, intensity, and goaltending. Other than the execution on the power play, Brind’Amour said he was also happy with the team’s performance. Still, the inability to get one past Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, who finished with 35 saves, proved to be fatal.
“We said before the game we wanted to at least show everybody what we were about,” Brind’Amour said. “Because we hadn’t done that for two games really. We can feel good about the fact that we at least gave them a game. To me, we hadn’t given them a game yet. It was pretty easy, I think, for them. At least we battled hard. We came out exactly how we wanted to, and it just didn’t work out.”
“The first two games, we just, quite frankly, weren’t good enough,” echoed Williams. “This one, we were good.”
Facing elimination in Game 4 on Thursday night, the Hurricanes are well-aware of the situation. Unwavering on their faith in the team, players said they plan to take a day-by-day approach. As de Haan put it, they “just got to win four games in a row. Simple as that.”
“You’re going to hear the same old stuff that you hear from every coach over the past 100 years when you’re down, 3-0,” Brind’Amour said. “But it’s true. We’re not going to beat them four times the next game. We got to try to win one period and see what happens.”