What we learned from the Bruins’ 5-3 loss to the Hurricanes

The Bruins gift-wrapped a Carolina victory on a nostalgic night.

Boston Bruins forward Ryan Donato (17) watches as the puck bounces in front of Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek (34), Janne Kuokkanen (59), and teammate Colby Cave (26) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, in Raleigh, N.C.
Boston Bruins forward Ryan Donato (17) watches as the puck bounces in front of Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Petr Mrazek (34), Janne Kuokkanen (59), and teammate Colby Cave (26) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Sunday, Dec. 23, 2018, in Raleigh, N.C. –AP

COMMENTARY

The Hurricanes entered nostalgia mode by paying homage to their Hartford roots. The Bruins, on the other hand, brought an early holiday spirit, and not in a good way.

Boston’s two-goal lead quickly turned into a deficit against the former Whalers squad Sunday night. A crisp attack turned passive. A sound defensive effort over the last few games turned into a sloppy plethora of turnovers.

By then the Bruins played on their heels and the PNC Arena DJ got busy blasting “Brass Bonanza.”

“The Bruins absolutely thought this one was going to be one of those easy games, and you can see it,” NESN analyst Billy Jaffe said during the second intermission. “You can see it in their passing, you can see it in their skating and you can see it in their mental makeup.”

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Here is what we learned from Carolina’s 5-3 victory at PNC Arena in Raleigh.

The Bruins’ D gave out early Christmas presents.

Bruce Cassidy’s squad picked up right where they left off from Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Predators. The Bruins had a 2-0 lead on the heels of Ryan Donato’s greasy goal and Steven Kampfer’s blast moments after killing off a 5-on-3 power play.

They got a little too comfortable with the two-goal cushion.

The Hurricanes pounced on Charlie McAvoy’s trio of blunders. His pair of turnovers in his own zone — along with losing a puck battle that led to a quick odd-man rush — gave Carolina’s dynamic duo of Teuvo Teravinen and Sebastian Aho time to counter. Just like that, the Bruins saw their two-goal lead evaporate into a one-goal deficit in a 15:45 span between the first and second periods.

“You hope that if you make a mistake that it’s not an end of the world mistake,” Cassidy told NESN’S Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley postgame. “But the ones we made tonight obviously we can’t overcome after awhile especially when your team is a little bit fatigued.”

The Bruins battled back and somehow stayed within one following Donato’s second of the night at 16:05 in the second — 4:18 after Justin Faulk’s second of the season. They went back on the attack in the third and had a golden chance to tie things up with a third-period power play.

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All that went for naught when Tuukka Rask, making his first start in seven days, coughed up the puck leading to Terevainan’s eighth of the season and Carolina’s second shorthanded goal.

By then it was too little, too late. Only Reggie Lemelin could’ve saved them on this nostalgic night.

“At the end of the day, it wasn’t our night. A few guys had a tough time,” Cassidy added. “You win as a team and you lose as a team, and then you move on to the next game, and hopefully, we’re a little sharper.”

Rask’s and McAvoy’s mistakes were front and center. Yet, the duo weren’t the only ones who had a tough night.

Lineup decisions await as a trio of Bruins inch closer to a return.

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The Bruins let another winnable game slip away. As much as Sunday’s loss stung, they have a lot to look forward to during the post-Christmas stretch.

Patrice Bergeron’s return in and of itself marked a major step forward on Saturday. Jake DeBrusk (concussion), Kevan Miller (throat), and Zdeno Chara (left MCL) could all return when the Bruins host the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden on Thursday.

Important lineup decisions await Cassidy once he returns from the three-day holiday break. Does he keep the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio intact upon DeBrusk’s arrival? And who will be the odd men out on D when Miller and Chara return?

The good thing is Cassidy has a few days to ponder over these tough questions. This is a good problem to have for the coaching staff as they are getting closer to a clean bill of health.

They gifted the Hurricanes a victory, but the Bruins have plenty to look forward to when they receive their late Christmas present from Santa.

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