“Hockey’s been dead to me since 1997,” my high school English teacher told me one day senior year. You see, he was from Connecticut and– by default– a Hartford Whalers fan.
When the Whalers relocated to North Carolina for the 1997-98 season, my 12th grade English teacher couldn’t see himself switching allegiances and rooting for one of Hartford’s rivals and he wasn’t about to follow the Whalers to Greensboro (because their new home arena– ironically– wouldn’t be ready for a couple of years), then ultimately Raleigh.
So for Mr. Huse, hockey didn’t even make it to 100 years like the NHL celebrated last season.
For others, nostalgia sells well, though it’ll never fully replace the void left behind by the real thing.
For the Carolina Hurricanes and Boston Bruins on Sunday night, it meant the Hurricanes could sell more seats and merchandise, then let fans watch a thrilling, 5-3, comeback Hurricanes victory over the B’s at PNC Arena.
Coincidentally, the last time the Whalers beat the Bruins as a team based out of Hartford, Connecticut, the final score was, 6-3, on March 12, 1997, so history almost repeats itself, if you will.
Sebastian Aho had a four-point night (two goals, two assists) and was a plus-four in Carolina’s victory on Sunday, while Petr Mrazek (6-7-2 record, 2.62 goals against average, .898 save percentage in 15 games played) stopped 27 out of 30 shots faced for a .900 SV% in the win.
Boston netminder, Tuukka Rask (8-8-2, 2.72 GAA, .911 SV% in 18 GP) made 32 saves on 37 shots against for an .865 SV% in the loss.
After Saturday afternoon’s, 5-2, victory over the Nashville Predators on home ice, the Bruins hit the road for one last game before the mandatory three-day, league-wide, Christmas break.
Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup against the Predators and recorded his 299th and 300th career goals, becoming the 6th player in franchise history to record 300-plus goals with Boston.
Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Sean Kuraly each added a goal (with Kuraly pocketing the empty net goal) against Nashville before the Bruins boarded a plane headed for Raleigh.
Jaroslav Halak made 28 saves in the win against the Preds and had Sunday off, while Rask backstopped the Bruins in the second night of back-to-back games, home and away.
Bruce Cassidy made no changes to his lineup for the B’s from Saturday to Sunday, leaving Bergeron on the first line, centering Marchand and Danton Heinen.
Joakim Nordstrom remained on the left side of David Krejci and Pastrnak, while the bottom-six forward lines of Ryan Donato–Colby Cave–David Backes and Kuraly-Noel Acciari–Chris Wagner remained intact.
With Urho Vaakanainen assigned to the Providence Bruins (AHL) and subsequently loaned to the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship for Team Finland, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson was the only healthy scratch for Boston on Sunday.
Zdeno Chara (knee, left MCL), Jake DeBrusk (concussion protocol) and Kevan Miller (larynx) are all progressing and nearing returns after the Christmas break. Some, if not all, may be ready to go on Thursday against the New Jersey Devils.
If not, they might return in Buffalo against the Sabres next Saturday. Otherwise, the three currently injured Bruins may return next year (well, next calendar year, that is).
As a result of Sunday’s loss, the B’s fell to 6-1-1 in the 2nd night of back-to-back games this season (outscoring opponents, 24-13, in that span).
Micheal Ferland kicked off the action on Whalers Night early in the first period, getting his stick up high on Backes, yielding a minor infraction for high-sticking at 1:27.
The Bruins went on the power play for the first time of the night and got to work quickly with a fluke play-turned-power play goal thanks to a friendly-fire bounce off of Trevor van Riemsdyk.
Donato (4) was the last Bruin to touch the puck on a shot attempt by Torey Krug that then deflected off of van Riemsdyk, bounced over Mrazek and landed in the net behind the Carolina goaltender.
Krug (18) and Marchand (28) had the assists on Donato’s goal at 2:40 of the first period and Boston led, 1-0.
Steven Kampfer went to the penalty box at 5:35 for holding Warren Foegele, then Acciari made it a 5-on-3 advantage for the Hurricanes after he high-sticked Sebastian Aho at 6:29.
The Hurricanes did not convert on their abbreviated two-skater advantage and subsequent shortened 5-on-4 power play, but the Bruins were able to work the game’s momentum in their favor.
With Kampfer fresh out of the box, Boston worked the offensive zone with little pushback and Kampfer (2) unloaded a shot from the point that Mrazek had no chance at stopping to give the B’s a two-goal lead.
Kuraly (6) and Marchand (29) had the assists on Kampfer’s goal at 8:56 of the first period and Boston led, 2-0.
Prior to Sunday, the Bruins were 16-1 when leading by two-goals at any point in a game this season. After Sunday, the Bruins were 16-2 when leading by two-goals at any point in a game this season.
Why? Because the Hurricanes had a whale of a comeback.
(Thank you, thank you very much.)
Carolina improved to 5-12-3 when allowing the game’s first goal this season, thanks to four unanswered goals stretching from the first period into the second period.
Boston fell to 13-3-2 when scoring first this season as a result of the blown two-goal lead and loss.
Justin Faulk interfered with Donato and was sent to the box at 10:09 of the first period, but the Bruins couldn’t score on the resulting power play.
Instead, shortly after killing off the penalty, Carolina capitalized on a fluke play.
Charlie McAvoy misplayed the puck in his own zone, leading to a Hurricanes attack that resulted in Teuvo Teravainen (7) banking a shot off of McAvoy’s glove and into the net as the young Bruins defender motioned his hand to try to bat the puck away (but instead swatted it into his own net).
Andrei Svechnikov (9) and Aho (23) had the assists and the Canes cut the lead in half, 2-1, at 12:55 of the first period.
With about 16 seconds left on the clock in the first frame, Svechnikov caught Krug with a high-stick and cut a rut to the sin bin.
The Bruins did not score on the power play that stretched into the second period.
Heading into the first intermission, Boston led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, while Carolina held onto the advantage in shots on goal, 13-10.
The Hurricanes also led in takeaways (8-1), while the B’s dominated in blocked shots (6-5), giveaways (3-1), hits (14-11) and face-off win percentage (61-39) through one period.
The Canes were 0/2 on the power play and the B’s were 1/3 after 20 minutes of play.
While still on the penalty kill, Carolina roared out to a fast start in the second period as Aho (13) fired a shot that squibbed through Rask’s five-hole as McAvoy partially screened his own goaltender.
Teravainen (20) had the only assist on Aho’s short-handed goal at 1:29 of the second period and the Hurricanes tied the game, 2-2.
As a result of the shorthanded goal against, Boston has now allowed six shorthanded goals this season (tied for the 4th worst in the league).
Aho (14) followed up with his second goal of the night after Carolina forced a turnover and entered the attacking zone with a 3-on-1. This time a one-timer beat Rask and the Hurricanes led, 3-2, at 7:11 for the first time of the night.
Moments later, after winning an offensive zone face-off, Faulk (2) wired a shot from the point that beat Rask’s glove side as traffic in the slot screened the Bruins netminder from even seeing the puck.
Ferland (5) and Justin Williams (13) had the assists on Faulk’s goal at 11:47 and the Canes led, 4-2.
Late in the middle frame, Donato (5) scored his second goal of the night with a patented Donato snipe that went bar-down in the top left corner to pull the B’s within one goal.
Colby Cave (4) and Backes (7) had the assists at 16:05.
Through 40 minutes of play, the Hurricanes held onto a, 4-3, lead on the scoreboard and a, 29-28, advantage in shots on goal.
Early in the third period, Ferland hooked Donato and the Bruins went back on the power play at 5:44.
While shorthanded, Teravainen (8) capitalized on another bad play with the puck in Boston’s own zone– this time on a lapse in judgment from Rask– and pocketed the mostly empty net goal to make it, 5-3, Hurricanes after Aho was denied the first time.
Aho (24) did pick up an assist, however, on Teravainen’s goal and Carolina led by two-goals at 7:20 of the third period.
Late in the final frame of regulation, the Bruins bench picked up a minor penalty for too many men (served by Donato) at 14:27 and Svechnikov put the Hurricanes on the penalty kill for boarding McAvoy at 17:20.
Neither power play was successful and despite pulling Rask for an extra attacker with about 2:40 remaining in regulation, the Bruins failed to score.
At the final horn the Hurricanes had handed Boston their first regulation loss to Carolina since April 13, 2013, with a, 5-3, victory.
Carolina finished the night leading in shots on goal (37-30) and giveaways (8-6), while Boston led in blocked shots (16-14), hits (41-32) and face-off win% (60-40) as the team wearing Whalers throwbacks played the role of spoiler just as Hartford used to actually do.
The Canes went 0/3 on the power play on the night, while the B’s went 1/5.
Among other stats, McAvoy finished the night as a minus-four. Matt Grzelcyk and Krejci were both minus-three’s. Steven Kampfer was a plus-one.
The reported attendance at PNC Arena was 17,491– the second highest this season, short of the 18,000-plus crowd for the home opener.
Boston fell to 20-13-4 (44 points) on the season, but remained in 4th place in the Atlantic, while Carolina improved to 15-15-5 (35 points) and stayed in 6th in the Metropolitan Division.
Boston takes on New Jersey (Thurs.) and Buffalo (Sat.) before heading to Notre Dame Stadium to take on the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on January 1, 2019.