It began a day later than originally scheduled, resulting in the NHL’s earliest-ever playoff starting time, and ended a little more than four hours later thanks to Saint Patrice.
In between, there was a whole lot to dissect from the Boston Bruins’ first victory in 155 days. More germane to the business at hand, Wednesday afternoon was the first time they celebrated at the end of a game since entering the bubble in Toronto.
The Bruins are 1/16th of the way towards hoisting the Stanley Cup after a 4-3 double overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1 of their best-of-7 Eastern Conference quarterfinal series. Like many playoff contests, this one provided equal parts ebullience and frustration, times when the locals looked unstoppable and other times that left you wondering if their stay in Ontario would be frustratingly short.
But just 73 seconds into the second extra frame, the Bruins do what they’ve tended to do over the last two seasons: deliver in the clutch when it matters most.
If every journey starts with one step — or skate stride, in this case — than this was an important triumph for Bruce Cassidy’s club, if for no other reason than to give them the feeling of a hard earned victory once again after four subpar outings prior to the start of the playoffs.
“I thought we stuck with it, defended really, really well. We played hard,” said Cassidy postgame. “We played for one another, supported pucks and did a lot of good things on offense 5-on-5.”
For a clash that began at 11 a.m. Wednesday — thanks, Tampa Bay and Columbus, for playing 5 OTs on Tuesday night, necessitating the move — and ended a little after 3 p.m., the Bruins seemed to get stronger and more confident as the proceedings wore on. Yes, there were foibles, but they were outweighed by the positives.
The Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-David Pastrnak line not only netted the decisive tally — with a pretty give-and-go between the two wingers coming into the zone before Pastrnak dished off to a trailing Bergeron on his right side for the game-winner — but also got on the scoresheet earlier in the day. So did the second line, with David Krejci and newcomer Ondrej Kase (”I thought he was fantastic, on pucks all night” said Cassidy) showing excellent chemistry with one another.
Charlie McAvoy played almost 34 minutes Wednesday (5 more than any other Bruin) and excelled in all three zones. Brandon Carlo was a defensive monster, helping to negate Carolina’s top line of Sebastian Aho & Co. while dishing out five hits and blocking four shots. His fourth block led to the up-ice rush that resulted in Bergeron’s marker.
Then there was Joakim Nordstrom, who played arguably his best game in a Black-and-Gold sweater. The fourth line grinder and penalty killer made a difference on virtually all 30 of his shifts, blocking a team-high five shots while earning two takeaways and dishing out three hits.
“I think we’ve all got to find ways to contribute to help our team win. I was put in those situations today where I had to lay the body in between, (and) I’m happy to do it as we all are on the team,” said Nordstrom.
Not that it was all sunshine and lollipops, of course. The power play, with some poor zone entries, looked stuck in second gear and was the antithesis of the unit that was the league’s second best in the regular season. Jake DeBrusk had bad puck luck throughout and couldn’t bury a couple of golden opportunities down low. Third liner Nick Ritchie looked slow and out of place on many of his shifts, reaching for the disc and losing puck battles all over the ice.
Even Pastrnak was not immune from scrutiny; a terrible decision to attempt a cross-ice pass from the right point on the power play led to a shorthanded breakaway goal against, turning what could’ve been a 2-goal Bruins lead into a tie game.
But a win’s a win, and to open the playoffs this way matters. Responding with an even better effort in Game 2 Thursday night will have Cassidy’s charges back to playing the type of Bruins hockey we’ve grown accustomed to.
Phil Stacey covers the Boston Bruins for CNHI Sports Boston. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN