But in playoff hockey, emotion counts, and often counts for a lot, and especially so for the Bruins when they have the force of 17,565 believers, some still dressed in faded No. 4 Bobby Orr sweaters, filling their building in the old West End.
“We know what’s at stake,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, noting what he felt was the club’s “calm” start. “The crowd gives you a lift, obviously, you score a huge goal …”
“Been a while,” added Brad Marchand, “since I’ve felt that into the game. We felt desperation … we have to keep playing like that.”
Observations from Game 3:
▪ The Bruins rallied from an early 1-0 deficit, finally finding their pulse with Charlie Coyle’s shorthanded goal to pull even. Finally, a foothold.
“When [Marchand] scored, that’s a big lift for us,” added Cassidy, referring to the goal early in the second that handed the Bruins their first lead over Carolina in six games this season. “We got a lead … a lead against this team for the first time since, like, 2020 or something. It’s been a while.”
On the 1-1 goal, Coyle blitzed the slot as his winger, Jake DeBrusk, rushed up the left side on a giveaway by ex-Canadien Jesperi Kotkaniemi. As defenseman Tony DeAngelo collapsed in the slot, DeBrusk fed to his right and Coyle popped it in for his first of the series.
It was one of the very few times the Canes have been caught napping, or at least slow to react. A prime example of the thin margins in the series.
▪ After cobbling together only three goals in the first two games, Cassidy reunited longtime linemates Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Pastrnak.
The ripple effect knocked DeBrusk to the Taylor-Erik Haula combination.
Trent Frederic, benched in Game 2 for a poor penalty, was given the night off, which led Cassidy to move Tomas Nosek, his No. 4 center, up to Coyle’s third line with Craig Smith.
Nick Foligno remained the constant on the fourth line, with Curtis Lazar shifted from right wing to the left side and Providence returnee Chris Wagner riding on right wing.
It was, by far, the best Boston lineup of the series. Cassidy likely will go back with the same 12-and-6 alignment in Game 4 Sunday at the Garden.
▪ In five prior meetings this season, including three in the regular season, the Canes struck for the first goal. Game 6 didn’t change anything, and it again was poor puck management that burned the B’s.
It was a Brandon Carlo clearing attempt that ended up feeding Brendan Smith around the left point. Smith snapped off a long-range wrister that Vincent Trocheck tipped on net. Swayman made the stop, but Trocheck knocked it home for the 1-0 lead at 9:17.
The goal underscored a number of continuing Boston bugaboos. No. 1: puck mismanagement; No. 2: the Canes continued ability to shoot for sticks, repeatedly getting good scoring chances (and often goals) off tips, deflections, and redirects; No. 3: Canes forwards paying the price for hanging in down low in the slot. They are aggressive, but the Bruins defensemen allow them to be aggressive. The Canes were not as assertive once falling behind by two goals
▪ Both clubs went with rookie goaltenders making their first starts in the Cup playoffs.
Swayman was appointed the start for Boston, after Linus Ullmark made the starts in Games 1-2. Ullmark wasn’t bad, but Cassidy noted after each loss that the Bruins didn’t get “the timely save” they so desperately needed.
Swayman finally made that timely save with two minutes remaining in the first, less than a minute after Coyle potted the shorthanded equalizer. With Nino Niederreiter sitting right on his doorstep, Swayman denied what appeared to be an easy putaway for the 2-1 Carolina lead. Huge stop.
In the other net, the Canes went with Pyotr Kochetkov, their No. 3 tender. They remained without their No. 1, ex-Leaf Frederik Andersen (injured) and Antti Raanta, who was still banged up after taking an awkward fall in Game 2 when his left leg was clipped by Pastrnak as the Czech forward raced in to retrieve a puck on the power play.
▪ Cassidy, with the last change at home, was able to ease Bergeron’s burden some at the faceoff dot by steering his line clear of the Jordan Staal trio. Staal was excellent at the dot in the first two games, often beating Bergeron, something few opposing centers have been able to say over the course of Bergeron’s career. Bergeron was back to being his old self, winning 11 of 17 drops (65 percent). Staal finished at 59 percent.
▪ No word on how soon the Bruins might get injured blueliner Hampus Lindholm back, but chances are nearly nil he’ll be seen again in this series.
Mike Reilly, who drew in as Lindholm’s sub, handled the job cleanly, looking more like the guy who played well here after the Bruins picked him up at last year’s trade deadline. He is among the club’s best skaters — from his days playing forward as a youth — and he can help move pucks up ice.
Lindholm is a huge loss, and losing key blueline personnel has been a Bruins staple in recent offseasons. But in years past, they have not had the kind of depth Reilly and Josh Brown can provide.
▪ Swayman put on a circus show around the 9:00 mark of the second, helping the Bruins maintain a 2-1 lead, the Canes putting a flurry of shots on net soon after the Bruins successfully killed off a Connor Clifton cross-checking penalty. Swayman turned back repeated attempts and was helped, too, by a DeBrusk stop.
Some five minutes later, Pastrnak’s power-play goal provided crucial 3-1 breathing room.
▪ Unsung hero of the night: Bruins defenseman Derek Forbort, who blocked a game-high nine shots, continually running headlong in the vulcanized meat grinder.
“If you look at our blocked shots column … to me, those are our unsung heroes,” noted Cassidy, his squad winning that metric by a 29-12 edge. “Forbort really showed his value tonight.”
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at [email protected]globe.com.