BOSTON -- The Carolina Hurricanes have been the toughest team for the Bruins to score against all season, and it hasn't even been close.
The Bruins were outscored 16-1 in three regular season games and beaten by a 10-2 margin over the first two matchups of their first-round playoff series down in Carolina. Against the 'Canes, the B's have looked more like a junior league team offensively than an NHL squad.
It was fair to wonder if the Bruins were ever really going to break through the stingy Hurricanes defense and elite penalty kill.
The Bruins finally accomplished that objective in Friday night's Game 3, and it happened in emphatic fashion.
After giving up just the first goal for the sixth time in six games versus the Hurricanes this season, the floodgates opened for the B's as they scored four unanswered goals in a 4-2 win to trim the series deficit to 2-1.
Scoring that many goals against a team that's dominated the Bruins all season not only earned Boston a much-needed victory, it should give the team a physcological boost as well.
"It seems like that was a hurdle we weren't really able to get over all year with this team," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. "They're extremely good defensively all over the ice. The way they play above guys and create turnovers all over the ice.
"We really haven't been able to penetrate the way we've been able to in the past against teams. It feels good to put up a few goals tonight, but we have to prepare again the same way that we did but even better, and try to do it again."
The Bruins scored in a variety of ways in Game 3.
They got on the board with a shorthanded goal in the first period. Jake DeBrusk made a tremendous pass to Charlie Coyle, who beat 'Canes goalie Pyotr Kochetkov to tie the score. This sequence was the turning point in the game as Boston captured the momentum and never gave it back.
The Bruins took their first lead over the Hurricanes all season when Brad Marchand drove to the front of the net, pounced on a loose puck and scored his first goal of the series.
“When Marshy scored, that’s a big lift for us,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We got a lead. I think that was the second goal, right? We got a lead for now the first time against this team since what, 2020 or something? It’s been a while. Now all of a sudden, we get to play a little more comfortable game.”
David Pastrnak was held scoreless in the two previous games, but he broke through Friday night with a power-play goal to give Boston a 3-1 lead in the second period.
The Bruins struck again with the man advantage in the third period when Pastrnak and Taylor Hall completed a pretty passing sequence for an easy tap-in.
The Bruins power play was awful in April and at one point struggled through an 0-for-39 drought. This unit didn't show any improvement in Game 1, either, coming up short on all three of its opportunities and consistently failing to enter the attacking zone cleanly.
Boston's recent improvement on the power play -- one goal in Game 2 and two more in Game 3 -- is one of the most encouraging developments for the Original Six club over the last two games. The Bruins' puck movement was crisper, their zone entries were cleaner, they won more faceoffs and they were more aggressive in getting pucks on Carolina's rookie netminder.
One area still a bit concerning for the Bruins offensively is their 5-on-5 production. Just two of their seven goals in the series have come at 5-on-5. The B's were actually outshot (18-17) and outscored (2-1) during 5-on-5 action in Game 3.
Boston's power play has been inconsistent all season and Carolina has the No. 1 ranked penalty kill. Scoring shorthanded also is a pretty rare occurrence against the 'Canes, who allowed only three such goals during the regular season. Therefore, the Bruins cannot rely on special teams to provide the bulk of their scoring. It's just not sustainable. They must improve 5-on-5.
But make no mistake, seeing the puck go in the net a bunch of times against a team that's shut them down defensively had to feel good for the Bruins. They've cleared that hurdle, as Marchand said, and now the challenge is taking it up another level to even the series Sunday afternoon.