Canes face sweep, elimination in hosting Bruins
The Boston Bruins have been in some binds in the postseason, but they don’t want the luxury of a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals to distract them from the mission.
The Bruins will try to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Final when they go for a sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night at PNC Arena.
“It’s a good spot to be in,” Bruins left winger Brad Marchand told reporters of the 3-0 lead. “But it’s far from being over. ... It’s all about the next one.”
Boston was forced to seven games against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, then trailed the best-of-seven series against the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 before winning in six.
Now, the Bruins have won six straight games, delivering the Hurricanes a home loss for the first time in the playoffs with Tuesday night’s 2-1 victory in Game 3.
“This year we feel like we really have each other’s backs,” Boston goalie Tuukka Rask said. “We’ve been in some tight games.”
If the Bruins fail to sweep the series, the teams will go back to Boston for Game 5 on Saturday night.
Rask has stopped 85 of 90 shots faced (.944) in the series.
“Guys have played with Tuukka for a while now,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. “They know what he’s made of. ... (Since the playoffs began), he hasn’t really had a poor night.”
The Hurricanes haven’t been quite as settled in the net. Curtis McElhinney made his first appearance of the series by playing Game 3 after the Bruins posted 11 total goals (one into an empty net) in the first two games with Petr Mrazek in net for Carolina. The team has yet to officially announce a Game 4 starter.
The Hurricanes won two elimination games against the Washington Capitals last month. They’ll need four of those in this round.
“It’s frustrating, for sure,” Hurricanes left winger Warren Foegele said of the situation. “Just take it day by day. We believe.”
The Hurricanes made progress in Game 3, something they’ll aim to build off as they attempt to extend their season.
“I think you can feel good about the fact that we at least gave them a game,” coach Rod Brind’Amour said. “To me, we hadn’t given them a game yet.”
That was accomplished in Game 3 -- in which Carolina outshot Boston 36-31 but left without the desired result -- for the first time in a series the Hurricanes entered riding a six-game winning streak.
Yet the Bruins won’t take anything for granted for Game 4.
“It’s a tough place to play,” Boston right winger David Backes said of the road venue. “It’s a tough place to win.”
The Bruins’ six-game win streak is the franchise’s longest in the postseason since 1978.
One glaring difference between the teams has been power-play production. The Bruins own a 31.9 percent success rate (15 of 47) this postseason on power plays compared to Carolina’s 10 percent (5 of 50).
Boston has relied heavily at times on veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara, who played extended stretches. His penalty killing was crucial again in Game 3, as Carolina went scoreless in five power-play opportunities.
“He relishes those situations, he’s going to give it his all,” Cassidy said. “Really tough minutes for him. He was a rock for us.”
The Bruins will be without right winger Chris Wagner, who sustained an arm injury when he was hit by slap shot late in Game 3.