Takeaways: Bruins earn character win without top defensemen

Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman is congratulated at the end of the game. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The Boston Bruins encountered a curveball entering Game 4 with Charlie McAvoy entering COVID-19 protocol.

With adversity starring them directly in the face, the Bruins persevered in another must-win contest against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Bruins earned a character 5-2 win without their top two defensemen in McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm. They’ll head back to Raleigh for a pivotal Game 5 on Tuesday with the series tied at 2-2.

For the second straight game, the Bruins received a spark from their reunited top line of Brad Marchand (two goals, three assists), Patrice Bergeron (a goal and two assists) and David Pastrnak (a goal and an assist).

Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk each responded to Carolina’s respective first and second-period tallies from Brett Pesce and Jordan Staal.


DeBrusk’s equalizer resulted in a Bruins power play following a failed challenge for goaltender interference. A Sebastian Aho double-minor for high-sticking Bergeron resulted in a two-man advantage late in the middle stanza.

The Bruins took their first lead early in the third on Marchand’s snipe with one second remaining on the team’s second 5-on-3 attempt.

A visibly frustrated Tony DeAngelo kept digging himself a hole with every shift following a verbal exchange with Marchand at the end of the first. The Hurricanes found themselves on the other end of the discipline pendulum from Game 2 after committing nine penalties on Sunday.

A composed Bruins bunch pounced and never looked back, with Pastrnak extending Boston’s cushion to 4-2 nearly five minutes after Marchand’s go-ahead tally.

Marchand sealed the series-tying victory, avoiding DeAngelo’s head-scratching stick launch, with the empty netter to cap off his five-point outing. Here’s what we learned after the Bruins turned a 2-0 series deficit into a best-of-three scenario.

A knicked up captain led by example… again

With momentum on their side following DeBrusk’s tally, the Bruins nearly lost another significant cog after Aho caught Bergeron with a stick to the eye. Boston’s captain tried to return immediately but had to go down the tunnel for cleanup and repairs after drawing blood.


“I got lucky there,” Bergeron said during his postgame press conference accompanied by his three children, Zack, Victoria and Noah.

“There’s blood in there, so I just couldn’t see. It was blurry at first, but then I realized I was fine. It’s just a cut, so you want to get back out there if you can. But the ref, because he blew the whistle for the injury, I couldn’t get back out there.”

Bergeron missed the final seconds of the middle frame. There was no way he’d miss any time beyond that.

After all, the longest-tenured Bruin developed a history of playing through significant pain, including Game 6 in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final.

“That’s the least of what Bergy has played through, a cut. He’s played with a hole in his lung and broken ribs,” Marchand said of his longtime linemate. “There’s not a lot that’s going to keep him down.”

Bergeron and the Bruins went right to work early in the final stanza, trotting out five forwards for the remaining 44 seconds of their two-man advantage.

Cassidy’s second intermission decision paid immense dividends

Boston’s go-ahead goal during their second 5-on-3 power play didn’t come conventionally.

Instead, Bruce Cassidy and the coaching staff went into the locker room between the second and third periods with a unique idea.


“We’re not typically going to go with five forwards,” Cassidy said. “But in this case, it was a worthwhile risk for us to do it, and it happened to pay off.”

The Bruins didn’t have their top power-play quarterback in the right shot McAvoy. Their only right-shot blue-liners in Game 4 were all stay-at-home defensemen: Brandon Carlo, Connor Clifton and Josh Brown.

Because of that, the Bruins opted to use a quintet of Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak, DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle coming out of the locker room.

“Well, typically Charlie is up top, McAvoy. And in the past the 5-on-3 I thought worked the best was with a right stick,” Cassidy said. “And really, the only right stick [defensemen], Carlo, Clifton and Brown, haven’t been power-play guys, so we went with Charlie Coyle on the right stick.”

The Hurricanes’ knack for blocking one-timers prevented the Bruins from going to their bread and butter power-play setup with Pastrnak.

With that in mind, the Bruins opted for a different idea to move the puck quickly with a forehand setup. They eventually found an open shooting lane for Marchand to put the Bruins ahead for good in the closing seconds of the 5-on-3.

“I find what Carolina does well is they block the one-timers well. They anticipate the pass, so maybe shooting from your forehand side before they can get into the lane was one idea plunger low, so we had a couple of options,” Cassidy added. “Marshy took the shot from there before they could get into the lane, and it was a heck of a shot.”


Very few supporters gave the Bruins a legitimate shot of winning the series after dropping the first two games. But they earned a pair of show-me wins and shifted momentum in front of an electric TD Garden crowd.

Bruins overcome McAvoy and Lindholm losses in stiffest adversity test

Lindholm watched Boston’s Game 3 win from the ninth-floor press box after colliding with Andrei Svechnikov in Game 2. McAvoy didn’t even enter the Causeway St. confines for Game 4 following a positive COVID test.

Carlo, Reilly, Brown, Clifton, Derek Forbort and Matt Grzelcyk made up Boston’s Game 4 defensive core. Even with a healthy lineup, the Bruins needed all hands on deck after laying proverbial eggs in Games 1 and 2.

The Bruins encountered their share of adversity throughout the season. Their biggest obstacle came Sunday without their top two blue-liners and a potential 3-1 series deficit starring at them.

Indeed, the B’s took advantage of Carolina’s self-inflicting moments, shifting the discipline narrative in their direction following a rough Game 2. And the six defensemen held their own in a next-man-up scenario, limiting Carolina to 26 shots on net and delivering 18 of the team’s 37 hits.

“We didn’t have a choice,” Marchand said of playing Game 4 without McAvoy and Lindholm. “It’s tough when you lose guys like them. They’re great players, and they play big minutes. But it doesn’t mean you can roll over and fold. There’s a lot of pride in the room and a lot of character. We’ve always shown that, and luckily we were able to pull out a couple of wins.”

The Bruins don’t know when they’ll have McAvoy again. But Cassidy provided encouraging news on Lindholm before Sunday’s matinee, noting the former Anaheim Duck could return for Tuesday’s Game 5.



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