By Peter Koutroumpis
RALEIGH, N.C. – It all happened so fast.
A flurry of goals from the Boston Bruins piled up like repeated punches to the gut and head that left the Carolina Hurricanes dazed and reeling and resulted in a 6-4 loss at PNC Arena on Tuesday.
A hat trick from David Pastrnak, along with singles from Brad Marchand, Matt Grzelcyk, and Danton Heinen led the Bruins offense in a shocking comeback witnessed by a crowd of 13,081 on hand.
Led by power play goals from Sebastian Aho and Tuevo Teravainen. and tap-ins from Justin Williams and Brock McGinn, the Hurricanes led 4-1.
It looked as though the game was well in hand as the latter half of the third period approached.
Goalkeeper Cam Ward, who faced 33 shots in the loss, had made equally impressive saves up to that point as his Bruins counterpart Tuuka Rask did, also facing 33 pucks on the night.
Then it all unraveled in a matter of minutes.
It left many speechless.
“I’m still kind of stunned really,” Williams said.
“Things can go so right for 50 minutes – you can dig in and do all the things right. Then you let one goal turn into another, turn into another one…I don’t know what else to say.”
It was crowded around the creases all night.
When all 10 players were on the ice and going, there wasn’t much space to move around in.
Shot selection and placement was at a premium – the only way pucks were going to bulge the twine.
Marchand scored his 30th goal of the season when he finished a backdoor pass from Pastrnak on a sequence set up by former Hurricanes center Riley Nash.
Scoring with just 11 seconds remaining in the first period, Boston didn’t carry its 1-0 lead for very long into the second before Aho tied it up at the 2:10 mark.
Plugging in and surging
While scoreless on the power play up to that point, Aho’s snipe from the right faceoff dot beat Rask high to his blocker side as Elias Lindholm set the perfect screen in front of the keeper.
Teravainen and captain Justin Faulk assisted on the play, the first of two helpers the defenseman finished with.
Competition for loose pucks ensured finished checks on both sides as play progressed with the game all even at 1-1.
Tempers started flaring during the latter half of the period when Marchand cut down Faulk with a trip that resulted in a center-ice scuffle with Hurricanes co-captain Jordan Staal.
With a 5-on-3, the Hurricanes took the 2-1 lead at 12:06 on Teravainen’s slap shot past Rask, his 21st goal of the season on a set-up from Aho and Faulk.
Continuing to press late in the period, a hard shot from McGinn in the slot was stopped by Rask but trickled behind him and sat in the blue paint before Williams fought off Marchand to score his 15th goal of the season.
With Carolina holding a 3-1 advantage, the third period promised to show increased intensity from both sides.
Boston looked to pull back to even on the power play, a carryover advantage from a Brett Pesce tripping penalty.
However, effective penalty killing allowed Carolina to fortify its lead.
A turnover at the Hurricanes’ blue line gave Lindholm the puck and a rink-length breakaway on Rask.
Though making the pad save on the deke, Rask was out of position and allowed a streaking McGinn to easily tuck the puck away into the net and extended the Carolina lead to 4-1.
With just over 19 minutes remaining, Boston then put together an overwhelming, shock-and-awe comeback, and scored three goals in a span of 77 seconds.
Goals from Grzelcyk, Pastrnak, and Hinton tied the game at four goals apiece with 8:39 remaining.
It was a new game for both sides, but the momentum was too overwhelming in the Bruins’ favor for Carolina to contend with.
With 4:08 remaining, the puck cleared the glass and put Faulk in the penalty box for delay of game.
While a dominating pro-Bruins crowd roared in favor, the uneasiness of everyone else in the building could be equally sensed.
The man-up opportunity completed the comeback for the Bruins, as Pastrnak’s blast past Ward from the left circle gave them back the lead, 5-4, with 3:30 remaining.
There was still time, but Carolina couldn’t come out of its shocked state.
“I thought they caught us,” head coach Bill Peters said.
“We got a little tired. Maybe mentally tired. We didn’t make as many plays as we needed to. We got on our heels a little bit.”
An empty-net goal two minutes later completed Pastrnak’s hat trick.
It was the final sting and result of a set of sequences that handed the Hurricanes their second loss in as many nights and pulled them further back of what has become an elusive postseason spot.
“They’re a good team,” Faulk said.
“We’re in a position to scratch and claw, our backs are against the wall, and we’re playing tight. We’re not playing loose – probably not playing with as much confidence as a whole the last little while. They’re a good team. Good teams do that. I don’t really know how to explain what just happened. We made a lot of mental mistakes there and they capitalized. Their good players came to play when it mattered most I guess.”
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport