Boston Bruins make a statement win over the Carolina Hurricanes

Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73) checks Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce (22) during the first period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73) checks Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce (22) during the first period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

Blowing a two goal third period lead isn’t what the Boston Bruins wanted, but they fought hard to prevent the Carolina Hurricanes from taking the lead and won via shootout.

A win is a win, but for the Bruins it’s more than that. They held off the ‘Canes while resting Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Hampus Lindholm. Taylor Hall, Derek Forbert and Nick Foligno also were unavailable due to injury. And it was Boston’s first win in Carolina since 2020.

After a brief but necessary slump, the Bruins are back on track. They’ve won their last seven games, outscoring opponents, 27-9. Jeremy Swayman had back-to-back shutouts and was recently selected the NHL’s third star of the week. And David Pastrnak became just the sixth Bruin to score 50 goals in a season.

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But breaking the losing streak in Carolina might mean more than anything accomplished during this winning streak.

Boston Bruins will likely have to get through the Carolina Hurricanes to reach the Stanley Cup Finals

Since the 2021-22 season, Boston is 5-8 against Carolina, outscored 49-28. Until Sunday, Boston had lost the last six games in Carolina, outscored 8-25. That averages out to about six 4-1 losses in a row. That’s a problem.

That includes losing a seven-game first round series to the ‘Canes last spring, with the home team winning all contests.

Saying home ice would be critical in a playoff series between these teams would be an understatement. But it shouldn’t come down to holding serve at home if the Bruins really are the class of the league.

The Boston Bruins shouldn’t be bullied by the Hurricanes. On average, the teams are about the same size, so it comes down to attitude. The Bruins have to be tone-setters against the Hurricanes. Don’t wait then retaliate. Make Carolina pay in the corners when chasing the puck. Send a message that the Bruins regained the snarl reminiscent of the Big, Bad Bruins of the past.

Charlie McAvoy can deliver that message with a solid, clean hit. Foligno won’t take crap from opponents. And since the trade deadline acquisitions, Boston has more grit and toughness to make games feel like a long night.

Garnet Hathaway and Tyler Bertuzzi are feisty and physical. They’re the kind of players you hate to play against but would love on your team. Even if they don’t figure into the scoring, they will leave a mark on the game.

It’s possible their style of play is contagious. AJ Greer seems to be playing his best hockey since being paired with Hathaway. And Jakob Lauko either found his footing at the right time or he raised his intensity to match his teammates.

What stands out about the playoff loss is how Boston’s depth was dominated by the Hurricanes. Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk were minus-7 for the series. Hall minus-6. Along the blue line Brandon Carlo was minus-5. It’s a problem the Bruins can’t fix by just out-scoring the Hurricanes.

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Sunday’s win over the Hurricanes in Carolina is a much-needed confidence boost for the Boston Bruins. Besides ending the losing streak, it’s an indication that the Bruins can take the ‘Canes best shot in their house and still finish on top.

And the timing of the win is significant as well. There are just nine games left in the regular season, and a win over their toughest competition builds more momentum heading into the playoffs.

More than anything else, the Boston Bruins know they can beat the Hurricanes in Carolina. They can take matters into their own hands and not depend on home ice.