The Bruins must win a game in their House of Horrors if they want to keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive.
But, as unlikely as it may have seemed at times in this series, there will be a Game 7 on Saturday at PNC Arena.
For the first time in the season series, the B’s never trailed in Game 6 on Thursday at the Garden and forced a Game 7 with a 5-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Now it’s back to Raleigh, N.C., where they have yet to win this year, for one winner-take-all game. Through six games, no visiting team has won a game. But while PNC Arena has not been kind to the B’s, there is no place they’d rather be on Saturday, given the alternative.
“I love it,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “This is what you play for. Guys should be excited. Game 7, Stanley Cup playoffs, home or road. We’d rather be at home, I’m not going to lie to you. But we’d play ’em on Mars if we had to right now. We just want to get after it.”
Of the three victories the B’s have notched, Game 6 was their most complete. With Cassidy dropping David Pastrnak back down to the Erik Haula-Taylor Hall line, the B’s got the balanced scoring for which they were looking. They got goals from members of all four forward lines and a defenseman.
And that defenseman, Derek Forbort, had to come up huge defensively in a key stretch in the second period when the B’s, trying to protect a 1-0 lead, took four straight penalties, two of which produced a 5-on-3 for 54 seconds. They did not get a shot on goal on the two-man advantage and the B’s killed all four of those penalties. Forbort played a team-high 4:41 on the kill, blocked three shots, had three takeaways and three hits.
“He’s really stepped up. It’s been a series where we’ve been killing a lot of penalties,” said Cassidy. “Hopefully that’s stemmed a little as we go to Carolina for Game 7. We’ve got to stay out of the box. … But in the meantime, he’s been excellent on it.”
There was some question after the Game 5 loss in Carolina as to who the netminder might be for Thursday’s Game 6, but the choice of rookie Jeremy Swayman turned out to be the correct one. He made 23 saves on the night and made the big saves, especially in the first period (11 stops) that allowed the B’s to score first. Now he’ll get his first taste of a Game 7.
“It’s a dream come true. I can’t wait,” said Swayman, who started his fourth straight game on Thursday for the first time this season.
The Bruins took a 2-0 lead into the third period on second-period goals from Brad Marchand (giving the B’s their first 1-0 lead against Carolina in nine games this season) and Charlie Coyle (power play), but Carolina struck back with an early goal in the third to halve the lead. With the B’s top line and pair on the ice, they turned the puck over in the neutral zone and the Canes came back on a quick counter-attack. Seth Jarvis fed Andrei Svechnikov on the left wing and he buried it short-side past Swayman at 3:24.
But the B’s did not buckle. They hemmed the Canes in their end before Charlie McAvoy jumped on the ice and skated into a loose puck. He drifted to the right side before sliding a pass into the slot to Erik Haula, who made a deft redirect at 7:08 for his first goal of the series.
“Probably one of the best things we did all night was respond after they made it 2-1,” said Cassidy. “Earlier this year, we’d have to fight through that longer. And right away, we came right back down, played the right way, managed the puck, got it back and scored the next goal. That’s a good sign that’ll carry over to Game 7 should it happen again.”
Then the hard work from the B’s fourth line produced some much-needed puck luck. The light-scoring unit won battle after battle until the puck went to Forbort at the left point. Forbort flipped a wrister that found its way through a maze of bodies and past Antti Raanta at 10:43.
BOSTON, MA – May 12: Boston Bruins center Curtis Lazar (20) knocks down Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei (76) as the Bruins take on the Hurricanes in game 6 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals at the Garden on May 12, 2022 in , BOSTON, MA. (Staff Photo By Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
The Canes pulled the goalie with just under five minutes left, but Curtis Lazar added an empty-netter with 4:17 to go.
Marchand was called for spearing, picking up a double minor, which seemed like more of a game-managing call than anything, and Svechnikov added a power-play goal, but the Canes were not coming back in this one.
While some may give the B’s little chance of winning on the road, given the way the series has gone, Hampus Lindholm likes the role the B’s find themselves in.
“I know they have confidence at home and it’s going to be fun for us to come in there as an underdog,” said Lindholm, who looked strong in his return to the lineup. “We’ll show them what we’ve got.”