RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — It doesn’t matter which team goes on a power play. The Carolina Hurricanes rarely seem to wind up with the advantage.
Of all the teams that made it out of the first round of the playoffs, the Hurricanes have been the league’s worst —when they’re up a man or when they’re down one. They are scoring on just 11% of their power plays in this postseason while killing less than 70% of their penalties.
“The special teams haven’t been great, obviously,” defenseman Justin Faulk said Monday, “and that’s easy to see.”
They provide a sharp contrast to the Boston Bruins and their best-in-the-playoffs power-play unit, which scores on a full third of its chances and has nearly as many power-play goals in this series (four) as the Hurricanes have in the entire postseason (five).
So maybe it’s no surprise Boston has won the first two games of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final series with Game 3 coming up Tuesday night in Raleigh — where the Hurricanes are unbeaten in the playoffs.
“Playoffs is all about putting pressure on the other team, and seeing how they do with a little bit of pressure,” captain Justin Williams said. “We have to get a win (Tuesday) night, first of all, and push back a little bit and see how they respond. It’s not a do-or-die-or-go-home, but it is an important game for us.”
And when the puck drops, one thing will be clear for the Hurricanes. If they’re going to get back into this series, they need both of their special teams to be, well, a bit more special.
One of the key subplots of this series has been just how dominant the Bruins’ special teams have been. Boston is 4 of 7 on the power play through two games, scoring two goals in each with all four coming at relatively important times. What’s more, two of their even-strength goals in Game 2 came seconds after they killed penalties.
“The power play is huge. If we don’t score, we have to get some momentum off it,” Carolina forward Teuvo Teravainen said. “Just getting some ice time on the power play, you should put the puck in the net sometimes.”
The Hurricanes — who had a string of 24 straight power plays without a goal in the earlier rounds — are 1 of 7 in this series with the man advantage and were 0 of 4 during a 6-2 blowout in Game 2.
“I feel like we’ve done a really good job of eliminating the opportunities on the rush,” Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo said. “We haven’t let them get in the zone and really set up very much. We’ve really done a really good job of picking our times of pressuring them and jumping those opportunities where we can get the puck out.
“I still think they are a very good power play — still have some good skill guys and some good shooters on those groups — but right now the biggest thing is giving up the shots from the point and (goalie Tuukka Rask) is doing a really good job of seeing those.”
The Hurricanes have killed less than half of the penalties they’ve taken in this series, and of course, the best way to keep from giving up power-play goals is to not draw penalties in the first place.
That’s a lesson Carolina learned in Game 1 as their third-period lead slipped away during their march to the box, which took place after their power-play unit actually clicked, producing an early goal by Sebastian Aho and generating quality chances.
The Bruins took control with two goals with the man advantage in the first 3 minutes of the third, turning a one-goal deficit into a one-goal lead. Marcus Johansson’s power-play goal at 2:26 of the third in that game erased Carolina’s last lead of the series.
The special teams “weren’t great in the first series (against Washington, but) the penalty kill was better — wasn’t to start,” Faulk said. “Second series (against the New York Islanders) wasn’t great, but we got out because we played good 5-on-5 hockey. … We’ve got to play better 5-on-5, and you hope to get one or two (power-play goals) and stop them on special teams.”
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