By Peter Koutroumpis
TORONTO, ONTARIO – The Carolina Hurricanes lost Game 3 by a 3-1 margin to the Boston Bruins in the two teams’ opening-round Eastern Conference playoff series at Scotiabank Arena on Saturday.
Despite peppering Bruins starter Jaroslav Halak early and often in the opening period with 15 shots, his 29-save performance was critical to earning the win.
The Hurricanes trail 2-1 heading into Game 4 on Monday.
As goaltender Tuukka Rask’s departure to be with his family came as a surprise before the game, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy understood, and had to focus on his team’s play in front of Halak.
That included making changes to the bottom 6 of his lineup.
“It worked out,” Cassidy said on Sunday.
“We put some players in that would be excited to play. I think our energy level can always increase. The additions gave us some juice and I think it helped.”
Regarding Rask and of the possibility that he could eventually return, the Bruins coach said, “we exchanged texts today – he’s doing well, his family’s doing well. That’s very encouraging for everyone in the Bruins organization. We want nothin’ but the best for him and his family. Should circumstances change where he feels he can come back to the club, I think we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it and see what evolves.”
With the Hurricanes pressing to tie the game, trailing 2-1 with 4:38 remaining in regulation, an off-puck battle for position between Andrei Svechnikov and Bruins captain Zdeno Chara ended up in the young Russian forward falling awkwardly on his right leg flipping over the giant defenseman’s bent right knee in front of Halak’s crease.
The optics of watching the fall, an unnatural hyper-flexing of the knee and ankle joints, was concerning as Svechnikov visibly winced and clutched his bent knee with both gloved hands while lying on the ice.
“Right now, it’s tough because you see a kid go down, and that injury looks really bad,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said after the game.
Asked on Sunday what Svechnikov’s status to play the rest of the series was Brind’Amour said, “I know he was getting an MRI and all that – they were checking him all out, so I would highly doubt it.”
Noting that every team has injuries, Carolina will have to rely on its depth to fill the gap that currently exists in its lineup.
“Obviously, you’re not going to replace that player, for sure. Talent and everything in there, but there’s no other alternative,” Brind’Amour stated.
“It’s a team game and we know we need everyone to win if we’re going to have a chance. Everyone’s got to produce – whoever is in the lineup.”
While Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho leads the NHL with 10 points this postseason (3g, 7a in 5 GP), he was held scoreless in Game 3…Coming into it, Boston was 55-48 (.534) in Game 3 of best-of-seven series all time, while Carolina was 9-14 (.391)… As the Hurricanes adjust to playing without Svechnikov, the Bruins may get a welcome surprise if forward David Pastrnak returns for Game 4. Out following Game 1, he skated on Sunday and did some work in the gym according to Cassidy – “it’s 50-50 at best for now,” he said.
Peter Koutroumpis: 401-323-8960, @pksport