Peter Koutroumpis (@pksport)
RALEIGH, NC – You’re either nervous or excited – it’s Game 7 after all.
One comes before the other according to Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind.‘Amour.
Well, if anyone in the Carolina Hurricanes dressing room had any nerves, by the time they hit the ice on Saturday afternoon to face off against the Boston Bruins, pure adrenaline took over – no smelling salts needed.
Led by a 27-save performance from goaltender Antti Raanta and forward Max Domi’s two goals and an assist on Teuvo Teravainen’s second goal of the playoffs, the Hurricanes eliminated Boston by a 3-2 decision at PNC Arena in front of a franchise-record crowd of 19,513 in attendance.
The win, Carolina’s sixth all-time in final-game series-deciding matchups, advanced them into the second round of the NHL playoffs to face one of two familiar Metropolitan Division rivals – the Pittsburgh Penguins or New York Rangers who play their series-deciding game on Sunday.
“I think the nerves are before the game,” Brind’Amour pointed out before puck drop.
“The minute the puck drops, they go away and you just play”.
Team win led by a ‘great dude’
Captain Jordan Staal, along with Brind’Amour praised it as a great team win with some big contributions.
“A great addition to the group,” Staal said of Domi.
“He’s a great dude and fits our mold. He’s a guy who’s ready to work and do what it takes and tonight he got rewarded with some big goals in some big moments for our team, and we’re going to need moments like that from everyone, if we want to keep moving on.”
With their exceptional individual efforts, Raanta and Domi were indeed the difference.
That’s how it happens.
Team wins are led by a few exceptional individual efforts, supported by the rest.
“We have four lines, six D, two goalies, and you have guys throughout the lineup that can make a difference, so when you have that goin’, it’s fun to be a part of, it really is”, Domi said.
Experience and grace between the pipes
At 33 years old, Raanta is the oldest goaltender in franchise history to win a Game 7 and now sits with a 3-2 record, 2.37 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in six postseason appearances as a starter in the playoffs.
“At the beginning of the year, you didn’t anticipate him being the guy, and then to step into the biggest moments and be the guy, proud and happy for him, he’s been through so much,” Brind‘Amour said.
“It’s a big one for sure to get this series done,” Raanta said.
“When Freddie (Andersen) got hurt, it was kind of like for me, okay, show what you can do. Starting from Game 1, I thought my game was pretty good. Today it was a lot of battling, and grinding it out. Guys were playing amazing in front of me.”
Work hard, play hard
Scoring his first two career playoff goals, for the second three-point game of his NHL postseason career, Domi matched the franchise record for points and set the franchise record for goals in a Game 7 – rarified air shared with only assistant captain Jaccob Slavin and Mr. Game 7 himself, Justin Williams.
The most memorable note to take away is how efficiently Domi did this.
The eight-year veteran picked up at the trade deadline from the Columbus Blue Jackets clocked just under 13 minutes of playing time needing only 74 seconds – three shifts – to help set up and score Carolina’s goals against Bruins netminder Jeremy Swayman.
“Speed, he’s got a touch,” Brind’Amour said of Domi’s abilities.
“Whenever he gets the puck, he does good things with it. And tonight he showed that. He was a difference-maker for sure.”
Escaping the final grasp of the bear
Twenty-nine stops was an impressive effort from Swayman, but it wasn’t followed up with enough offense.
Goals from Jake DeBrusk and a late one from David Pastrnak with 22 seconds remaining, was all the Bruins could get against this Canes squad on this day.
For one last time, the home team prevailed to win the series and move on.
“Tonight, everyone was solid,” Brind’Amour said.
“Everything right from the starters throughout. Solid, solid game.”