If that was the Hurricanes best, the Bruins are set

RALEIGH, N.C. — It sure seemed like the first period of Game 3 was everything the Hurricanes had.

If that’s true, the Bruins should feel pretty good about wrapping up the Eastern Conference Final in four games.

Carolina gave its all with a 20-shot onslaught in the opening period, and sure, some puck luck was involved with missed open nets and bad bounces. One of those and it’s a different ballgame, in an electric atmosphere like Raleigh.

But that didn’t happen, and instead it was Chris Wagner’s second period goal that, though the Canes brought it within one eventually, seemed to be the dagger. The B’s scored again quickly after — as it turned out, a needed goal — and the Hurricanes, power play chances and all, never dented Tuukka Rask or the Bruins.

It was easily their best showing of the series, even with a strong second period for naught in Game 1. And it wasn’t enough to take down the Bruins.

If that wasn’t it, it’s hard to imagine there being much more they can do.

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour looks on from the bench during the first period in Game 3 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference final series against the Boston Bruins in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, May 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

“It happened last series, we look back and they (the Islanders) had a lot of chances and didn’t score,” said Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour. “We’re up 3-0, it happens. Especially there’s one or two you’d like to have back, a wide open net, I’m sure they had some too.”

The Hurricanes weren’t deflated at any point even when trailing, instead giving the Bruins an onslaught to deal with, the opposite of a Game 2 where the Canes seemed to get flustered after it was a 3-0 game in the second.

There’s plenty of reason to believe the Hurricanes will try to punch first again in Game 4, with their backs completely against the wall. The Bruins, as they’ve shown, will likely be ready to handle it and punch back.

It’s never wise to write a series off, even at 3-0, as the Bruins themselves learned some years back. The Hurricanes have had plenty of magic in a seeming team-of-destiny type script of a season as well.

It’s still tough to imagine a rebound.

“In Game 2 you don’t play very well, it’s an easy fix,” said Brind’Amour. “You should have the look that you had in Game 3. It’s easy to flush a game when nobody plays to their standard. Flip it to now, everyone felt they played hard, these are tough ones to recover from.”

That doesn’t mean the Bruins can just sit back and wait for the result, or even for Tuukka Rask to keep stealing games and buying time for the offense to get going.

“We’ve just got to prepare the right way and just stick to our guns, do what we do best,” said defenseman Torey Krug. “That preparation is underway.”

The Bruins are one win away from a Stanley Cup Final berth, but it is still away; closing out is the toughest thing to do, and the Bruins have done it twice. They’ve already slayed one dragon with a win in Raleigh, something neither the Capitals nor Islanders accomplished.

If the Hurricanes have anything more in the tank than they showed to open Game 3, it might be too little too late anyways. But if that really was their best, the Bruins are evidently perfectly equipped to be done with them.