Up and down in the previous round, Boston’s power play began the Eastern Conference Final trending back in the right direction.
The Bruins used a pair of quick goals in the third period on the man advantage to force their way back ahead against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes before pulling away for a 5-2 win in Game 1 of the series on Thursday night at TD Garden.
Patrice Bergeron scored the game-winner for the B's, his fifth power play tally of the postseason.
Playing like they were fired out of a cannon that seldom went off in Columbus the last round, the Bruins took an early 1-0 lead on the first postseason goal of Steven Kampfer’s career.
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Kampfer -- only dressed for Game 1 thanks to Charlie McAvoy’s suspension, was on the receiving end of a brilliant pass from Marcus Johansson, who broke up the left wing after creating a turnover but slammed on the brakes to allow for a passing lane to develop. In came Kampfer up the middle, who beat Carolina netminder Petr Mrazek just 2:55 into regulation.
Momentum was short-lived for the Black and Gold, however. Not even a minute later, Sebastian Aho scored on the power play at 3:42 thanks to a Sean Kuraly roughing minor. Carolina’s power play was supposed to be the least of Boston’s worries, given its 4-for-38 track record through two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The stalemate held until 9:18 of the second period, when fourth-line center Greg McKegg gave a new meaning to crashing the net for the Hurricanes. With Kampfer trailing him, McKegg was able to get a shot off that split between the legs of Tuukka Rask -- milliseconds before railroading the goaltender and dislodging the net. Despite the collision, it was ruled a good goal to put Carolina ahead for the time being.
A promising final two minutes of the second period carried over to the beginning of the third, where the Bruins reestablished themselves as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
Making matters all the sweeter for Boston wasn’t just the fact that it scored two power play goals in a manner of 28 seconds to re-take the lead, it was that ex-Bruin Dougie Hamilton was in the penalty box for both goals. The end of Hamilton’s Boston career is another story for another time, but the deafening chants of “Dougie! Dougie!” from the crowd at TD Garden should tell you all you need to know.
First it was Johansson at it again, cleaning up a net-front scrap at 2:26 to tie things up, followed by Bergeron doing was he does best: rising to the occasion and delivering daggers, this one at 2:54 of the third.
Brandon Carlo supplied an empty-netter at 17:47 of the third, while Chris Wagner scored with Mrazek back between the pipes just 11 ticks later.
Carolina outshot Boston, 31-28. Rask finished with 29 saves, narrowly missing what would have been his sixth straight games with 30 or more stops.
Game 2 is on Sunday at 3 p.m. back at TD Garden. The broadcast of the game is on NBC 10 Boston.