By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – Scott Darling made 28 saves in his regular-season debut for the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Tuesday.
Forward Sebastian Aho helped put the Hurricanes on the board first, setting a franchise record for longest season-opening point streak (12 games – 4g, 13a), and tying an NHL mark for longest assist streak during any time of the season.
Micheal Ferland’s seventh goal of the year, his 100th NHL point, and Dougie Hamilton’s second put the Hurricanes ahead late in the first and second periods, leading 1-0 and 2-1, respectively following those scoring plays.
However, opposing forwards Brad Marchand (2g) and Patrice Bergeron (3a), along with goaltender Jaroslav Halak eventually claimed all the glory for the Bruins who skated out of the building with a 3-2 win after 60 minutes elapsed.
A steal by Bergeron in the Bruins end and a quick stretch pass up to Marchand along the left boards in the neutral zone eventually resulted in a sniped shot that deposited the puck in the opposite upper corner, past Darling’s left ear.
That goal tied it up 2-2 at the 19:42 mark of the second period – a costly mistake according to Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour.
“We made a bad decision on a change – we took a breath,” he said.
“You gotta give Bergeron a lot of credit, he came back and saved a goal and zipped it up (to Marchand). We gotta learn that we can’t take a break.”
Run n’ gun
Once again, outshooting the opposition with 40-plus shots, 44 to be exact, didn’t cause Halak to waver.
He stymied multiple breakaway attempts and point-blank shots and earned the win and remained undefeated (4-0-2) while Boston now sits at 7-3-2.
Darling returned to action following an early-season injury and showed some solid positioning early on.
“I felt good, I’ve been skating for weeks,” he said.
“It’s not like I missed half the year or anything. It was all good.”
It indeed was all good for Carolina for the first 40 minutes.
The Hurricanes skated at full pace, finished checks, and got sticks in passing lanes that kept Boston from building much momentum.
But the Bruins waited it out, as many opponents are apt to do against the Hurricanes in their building, and capitalized on their opportunities.
“Yeah, perseverance for sure,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy pointed out.
“We’ve had a tough go lately with offensive chances and it was nice to get a couple of good looks. We got behind their defense a few times. The way they play, they’re aggressive, so you have to win battles on the wall, chip pucks to space and win races.”
And that’s where Marchand took over, winning the most significant race with the puck past Carolina captain Justin Williams, dodging around Darling and the net to score his second of the game.
The goal put the Bruins ahead 3-2 with 5:23 remaining.
Ha-lak of finish
With ample time remaining, the Hurricanes worked to beat Halak and tie it up, a situation that they’ve put themselves in many times.
However, a second consecutive one-goal loss and the inability to score at even strength when needed has calmed the waves of exhilaration this team has created late in games for its fans.
“Now it’s two games in a row when we’re down one goal,” Aho said.
“I feel like we push it too much, and we should stick to the plan and play our game.”
On this night, the majority of the 11,357 on hand walked away without a win to watch, nor a new team celebration.
Instead the same lack of scoring when needed continued to be the missing piece to the puzzle of how to win close games, as Carolina is now 6-5-1 and in third place in the Metropolitan Division standings.
“The margins are tight here,” Brind’Amour said.
“We’re like right there, but it didn’t go in our favor. The record doesn’t reflect the level of our play. We just have to stick with it – get rid of those little mistakes.”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport