BOSTON -- The Bruins didn't have their two-best defensemen for Game 4 of their first-round series against the Hurricanes, and yet it didn't matter.
Without Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm, the Bruins overcame 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to beat the Hurricanes 5-2 in Sunday afternoon's Game 4 at TD Garden and even the series at two wins apiece.
Special teams again played a key factor in the outcome, with Boston scoring twice on the power play and going 5-for-5 on the penalty kill. Bruins rookie goalie Jeremy Swayman gave another strong performance in net, making 23 saves on 35 shots to earn his second career postseason win.
The Bruins will try to take a 3-2 series lead in the pivotal Game 5 in Carolina on Tuesday night. But first, let's look at three takeaways from the Boston's Game 4 victory.
1) Reuniting top line has paid huge dividends
The Bruins broke up their first line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak in early January and the change sparked a huge turnaround for the team. Pastrnak instantly clicked with Taylor Hall and Erik Haula on the second line, giving Boston two lines capable of giving opponents problems. The B's finished the regular season with the second-best record since Jan. 1.
The Bruins kept those lines together entering Round 1, but after scoring zero even-strength goals entering the third period of Game 2, head coach Bruce Cassidy reunited Pastrnak with Bergeron and Marchand. The move has paid off in a massive way with Marchand scoring three times (once on the power play), Bergeron scoring once and Pastrnak scoring twice (once on the power play) over the last two games.
These three showed off their impressive on-ice chemistry with a perfectly executed play off a faceoff that Pastrnak finished to give Boston a 4-2 advantage in the third period.
This top line didn't just score on the power play. The trio excelled at even strength, too, with the B's earning a 7-1 edge in shot attempts, a 4-1 lead in shots on net, a 3-0 advantage in scoring chances and a 2-0 goal differential in the 6:40 of 5-on-5 ice time the Bergeron line played.
Here's a quick recap of the top line's performance Sunday afternoon:
- David Pastrnak: 1 goal, 1 assist, 6 SOG
- Patrice Bergeron: 1 goal, 2 assists, 5 SOG, 19-for-27 (70.4 percent) on faceoffs
- Brad Marchand: 2 goal, 3 assists, 5 SOG
The Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line has been arguably the NHL's best over the last three years. You can bet the Bruins won't break them up again for the rest of the postseason unless circumstances force them to.
2) Bruins take advantage of undisciplined 'Canes
The Bruins had an enormous amount of power-play ice time and they took advantage, scoring twice on nine opportunities. They also had over two minutes of 5-on-3 power-play time.
Boston's first power-play goal came in the second period when Jake DeBrusk drove to the net and pounced on a loose puck in the crease. Carolina challenged the play for goalie interference but lost, giving the B's another power play.
The Bruins took their first lead of the game when Marchand fired a shot past Hurricanes goalie Antti Raanta on a third-period power play.
The Hurricanes owned the league's No. 1 penalty kill with an 88 percent success rate during the regular season, but that unit has failed them in the last three games. Boston has now scored five times on the power play over the last eight periods dating back to Game 2, including two goals apiece in Game 3 and Game 4.
The 'Canes were penalized 14 times in these two games at TD Garden. They won't win this series with that lack of discipline, especially with the Bruins' power play now firing on all cylinders and loaded with confidence.
3) B's penalty kill steps up again
The Bruins showed great improvement on the penalty kill in Game 3 and that success carried over to Game 4. Boston's PK was busy early, having to defend three Hurricanes power plays in the first period alone, but the unit killed each penalty and allowed only one scoring chance.
Overall, the Bruins penalty kill did a tremendous job blocking shots, getting sticks in passing lanes and making it difficult for the 'Canes to enter the attacking zone at the blue line. Boston allowed just three scoring chances and one shot on net in 4:44 of shorthanded time.
Special teams have played a major factor in this series, and the Bruins' dominance in this area is the primary reason why they tied the series in Boston.