RALEIGH, N.C. -- Once the momentum started there was no way of stopping it for the Boston Bruins.
In a season where the Bruins have routinely showed a “will to win” and have consistently dominated the third period, they did both while scoring five unanswered goals in the final 10 minutes to secure a comeback 6-4 win over the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. To call it a wild comeback or an exhilarating momentum shift would be selling things short of what actually happened in the latter half of the third period.
Down by two goals headed into the third period after playing what Bruce Cassidy called “the worst period of our season”, the Bruins lost Jake DeBrusk, Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara to injuries while also giving up a shorthanded goal to the Hurricanes to make a three-goal hole. It certainly looked like a lost evening playing in front of a half-empty Carolina building, but that’s when things turned for the best for the Black and Gold.
Afterward the smiling Bruins couldn’t quite explain what had just happened, but knew they totally enjoyed it while knowing they escaped after playing some bad hockey along with the great hockey.
“It was awesome, you know? We had 2-on-1’s two shifts in a row after we got it to a 4-4 [score],” said David Pastrnak, who notched his first career hat trick with three goals all in the third period. “I don’t get. The whole night we kind of didn’t have the legs, and it was no energy and we looked tired. Then all of a sudden we get a couple of goals and everybody is flying. Everything clicked for us. I guess we all wish we knew how to turn this click. But I think a big part of it is just that we have a good team with a lot of very good players.”
With a few extra reps based on the other two left shot guys going down to injury, Matt Grzelcyk scored a goal at just about the exact midway point of the third period. Then David Pastrnak and Danton Heinen scored goals in the next 1:17 of action, and the Bruins were getting odd-man rushes and breakaways while the Hurricanes were completely breaking down. It was as extreme a momentum shift as one would ever see in the NHL, and it was very clearly a tale of two hockey clubs headed in completely opposite directions.
The Bruins are supremely confident in their abilities to come back from any deficit against any other team, and aren’t the least bit thrown off by injuries or horrid periods of play. They just keep coming, and keep coming and keep coming until either time runs out on them, or they eventually impose their will on the other team.
The Hurricanes, on the other hand, are a broken team waiting for something bad to happen to them, and that self-fulfilling prophecy falls exactly into perfect hands with the poised, pointed Bruins doing the chasing. It was all helped along by Brad Marchand, who was talking, cajoling and reassuring his teammates that they were still in the game after starting to claw back with the Grzelcyk goal that closed it to a two-goal mountain to be climbed.
“You just kind of feel it on the bench when we get a goal that we just kind of start to take over, and that’s what happened again,” said Brad Marchand. “It’s exciting. It gives you a bit of an adrenaline rush when things start to go your way.
“It’s a little demoralizing when we go through the second period the way we did. But as soon as we got that second goal, you just kind of felt that rush go through you. That excitement gets back in you, and that belief. That’s a dangerous tool. It’s a lot of fun coming back like that. It doesn’t always work out, but when it does it’s very exciting.”
It is nights like Tuesday in Carolina where the Bruins accomplish the highly improbable, topple the odds and truly continue to cultivate “that belief” as Marchand talked about. It’s a belief that the Bruins are never truly out of a game even when trailing by three goals in the third period, and a belief that something special is happening where the Black and Gold can do amazing things when they are pushed to do something out of the ordinary.
Certainly there are bigger goals for this season in Boston and the sights have been set pretty darn high with a deep, talented and dangerous hockey club, but it’s also going to be a long time before anybody forgets the night they exploded all over the Hurricanes for five goals in the third period for one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the Original Six franchise.