R.L. Bynum, Correspondent
RALEIGH, N.C. — Justin Williams has been through many great playoff moments in his career and isn’t used to postseason disappointment.
You could tell as much by looking at him. If you had any doubt, he made it clear.
“I think the disappointment is written all over my face right now,” said Williams, who took three first-period penalties.
Even with the Carolina Hurricanes’ best period of the series to start the game, they couldn’t overcome a hot goalie and a penchant to misfire on excellent scoring chances.
After the Canes had nothing to show from a dominant first period, the Boston Bruins took control in the second on their way to a 2-1 victory Tuesday in Game 3 and a commanding 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
After scoring 22 goals in their first five home playoff games, Carolina managed just one.
Tuukka Rask’s flexibility in the crease — and ability to glove shots he sometimes could barely see — made him the sort of goalie in the zone opponents never want to see. He finished with 35 saves.
Magnifying the frustration was that the Canes not only played well in the first period, but they also showed the brand of hockey that had gotten them to this series.
That’s something that was missing in the two games at Boston.
“It’s more of how we wanted to play, absolutely, it just didn’t happen. It stinks. It happens sometimes. But we’re not going to go away quietly,” said Williams, who credited Rask.
“He was really good early. We had a lot of opportunities early, probably deserved better. But, hey, that’s the way it is. A lot of chances, he made a lot of great saves early and throughout the game.
“First two games, we just weren’t quite good enough,” he said.
“This game, we were good, but sometimes it saws off. They got the goals and they shut us down pretty good.”
Williams and Sebastian Aho both came up empty on six shots.
But it was Aho who missed several excellent scoring chances, although he notched an assist to extend his point streak to five (3 goals and 4 assists).
You might say that Carolina didn’t catch any luck, but Coach Rod Brind’Amour didn’t want to hear any of that.
“You’ve got to work for your luck,” he said.
“You know what, we said before the game that we wanted to at least show everybody what we were about because we hadn’t done that for two games, really. I think we can feel good about the fact that we at least gave them a game. We battled hard, came out exactly the way we wanted. It just didn’t work out.”
The punchless power play that the Canes were able to overcome in the first two rounds is biting them in this series: 1-of-12 for the series and 0-for-4 on Tuesday.
“Proud of the way we played that game other than our power play,” Brind’Amour said. “Everything else was the way we wanted to do it.”
The Carolina Hurricanes came out flying in the first period with 10 shots in the first 5½ minutes and 20 shots for the period.
Many golden chances were squandered even with four power-play chances produced 12 shots.
The frustration of the what-might-have-been scoreless first period heightened when the Bruins scored two goals before Carolina even got its first shot of the second period.
The Bruins outshot Carolina 18-6 in that period.
“Obviously, you need to get something out of that period,” Brind’Amour said of the first period.
“I think not getting anything is a little bit demoralizing. Obviously, the game kind of flipped in the second. You’ve got to come away with something with all that we had going on in the first. Obviously, we didn’t.”
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 15, 2019
Chris Wagner took a beautiful pass from Joakim Nordstrom at the doorstep and scored as the Bruins’ fourth line gave them a 1-0 lead in the first 1:21 of the second period.
With the Canes playing on their heels, a backhand shot by Brad Marchand went off of Canes defenseman Calvin DeHaan for a power-play goal a little more than five minutes later.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) May 15, 2019
“It was just an unfortunate bounce,” said Canes goalie Curtis McElhinney, who made his first start of the series.
DeHaan made up for it with 6:12 left in the second period when he fired a slapshot from 45 feet out underneath Rask to give Carolina hope.
Rask repeatedly turned back any hope, though.
Let ‘er rip! pic.twitter.com/sEoRxegrpL
— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) May 15, 2019
“He is good,” Faulk said of Rask.
“He’s been doing it a long time. He doesn’t get too rattled in there. When he’s on, it’s tough. He’s always in good position. He doesn’t stray too much, and he moves side to side well. We had a couple of chances through the seam there with some passes and some one-timers and he was able to get over it.”
McElhinney looked strong after giving up those second-period goals, making a pair of nice glove saves late in the second period.
He turned back all seven Bruins shots in the third period, but the damage already had been done.
“He was really good,” Brind’Amour said of McElhinney and explaining going with him instead of Petr Mrazek.
“Just a change. We’ve been happy with both guys, so it wasn’t really that hard of a decision. Mac was great, he gave us a chance tonight and that’s all you can ask.”
Brind’Amour faces another goalie decision for Game 4.
He can only hope that Carolina can find the same level of play he saw on Tuesday and get some breaks on top of that.
The way Rask is playing, that’s going to be a challenge.
Now, the Hurricanes will get another shot at him in Game 4 on Thursday, hoping it’s not the end of their magical postseason run.
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