Before the Boston Bruins and the Carolina Hurricanes headed into the first overtime of Game 1 of their Eastern Conference First Round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Wednesday, a message appeared on the giant screens that ring the ice at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto: “Déjà vu?”
Patrice Bergeron scored at 1:13 of the second overtime to give the fourth-seeded Bruins a 4-3 win against the fifth-seeded Hurricanes.
As exciting as the teams found the game the night before — in which the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 in five overtimes, bumping Bruins-Hurricanes from 8 p.m. on Tuesday to 11 a.m. on Wednesday — they weren’t interested in replicating it for themselves.
Bergeron admitted about getting flashbacks. “A little bit,” he said. “We talked about trying to end this before a fifth overtime, so we’re pretty happy with that.”
Bergeron and the Bruins’ top line ended the game significantly earlier, giving the defending Eastern Conference champions the lead in their best-of-7 series.
Game 2 is in Toronto, the hub city in the East, on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
“We know we’re playing a very good team, high checking, very fast,” Bergeron said. “It was about finding a way. We talked about, especially in overtime, putting the puck on net, you never know what can happen.”
What could happen was what so often does when Bergeron is on the ice with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak: a goal. It was the fourth career postseason overtime goal for Bergeron, good for the most in Bruins history and the second-most among active players to Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane (5).
And it was the culmination of a very strange 24 hours.
The Bruins and Hurricanes had arrived at Scotiabank Arena around 5 p.m. on Tuesday assuming they would play a game that evening, scheduled for 8 p.m. They never made it on the ice.
It was a situation that could have provided a lackluster Game 1, between the mid-morning start, no fans in the arena due to coronavirus precautions, the 15-hour delay in puck drop. Instead, it was a highly competitive, highly entertaining display that saw a late game-tying goal from the Hurricanes’ Haydn Fleury (9:49 of the third) push the game into overtime.
“That’s another excuse you can bring up,” Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal said. “I thought we did a good job preparing for the game. I know last night we were jumping at the bit to get going. That didn’t end up happening, obviously. Switching to the morning was different, but we’ve battled through worse.”
The Bruins, meanwhile, did not seem thrown by the change. The core of veterans of the team have been through three trips to the Stanley Cup Final — including a win in 2011 — and 18 of the 20 players who dressed on Wednesday played at least three games during the run to the Final last season.
“It’s out of your control,” Bergeron said. “We knew it was a possibility — I mean, you didn’t expect the five overtimes, but that being said, it’s a part of having a tournament like this in one rink. Be ready for the unexpected, I guess. So we tried to stay composed whatever the decision was going to be.”
And that was especially the case for the Bruins’ top line, a line that combined for one assist (Bergeron) in in the three games of the round-robin after Pastrnak missed all of training camp because of quarantine issues. The Bruins went 0-3-0 in the round-robin after winning the presidents’ Trophy as the NHL’s top team in the regular season.
On Wednesday, everything seemed back to normal. The trio combined for the Bruins’ first goal, by Pastrnak, at 17:45 of the first period.
“Relief is not the right word in my estimation,” coach Bruce Cassidy said. “These guys are battle tested. … We’ve got a lot of trust in those guys.”
And when it happened, that overtime rush, with Pastrnak passing back to the trailing Bergeron, Cassidy could only marvel, and not just because it meant the teams wouldn’t be playing beyond the second overtime.
“It looked beautiful here too,” Cassidy said. “I’m not going to lie to you.”