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Game 4 Will be Pivotal

by Paul Branecky / Carolina Hurricanes
As well as the Hurricanes have played for most of this postseason, it’s strange to think that this marks the first time they’ve enjoyed a series lead for a significant length of time.

Paul Branecky
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Although they beat the Devils in the first round, they never led that series until it was basically over. To be exact, they enjoyed the upper hand for all of 32 seconds before it was time to move on to the Bruins just a few days later. Much like the rest of the series, the majority of that final game was spent playing catch-up.

So here we are in a bit of a new situation, not only for the Canes but for the Bruins also. Having swept eighth-seeded Montreal in the first round, Boston hadn’t yet trailed in the postseason thus far and, prior to Game 2 of this series, hadn’t even lost a game since a regular season contest with Buffalo on April 11.

They led the Eastern Conference from virtually start to finish, with a 1-4-1 stretch in mid-February the only real blemish on their record. That they now trail by one game shouldn’t be a cause for panic - just look at the Canes, who erased that deficit three times in Round 1.

In contrast to the Hurricanes, who have been fighting adversity since November or so, this could actually represent the most adversity the Bruins have faced all year. However, that’s more of a testament to their dominant regular season than it is an indication of dire straights now.

“We’re not exploiting any weakness in the Bruins’ game, because they don’t have any,” said Hurricanes Coach Paul Maurice. “I don’t sense in this series that we would ever look beyond a game and say, “Hey, we’ve got them where we want them.’”

“We’re leading by one game,” said Sergei Samsonov, who has been a big contributor against the Bruins, particularly with his two points in Game 3. “We like where we are, but it’s not over by any means.”

If the Canes can win again tonight, the story would be different. Heading back to Boston with a 3-1 lead and three more chances to close out the Bruins sounds an awful lot better than hitting the road in a 2-2 deadlock. That should do enough to illustrate the importance of tonight’s game.

“This is a huge game for us tonight. We know that,” said Eric Staal. “They’re in our building and we want to take advantage of that. We can’t take a breath at all because if we do we’ll be caught behind the eight ball pretty quick.”

One of the reasons the Canes have a good chance at the first scenario is the emergence of reliable secondary scoring, the aforementioned Samsonov especially. With all the talk of the Eric Staal/Zdeno Chara match-up, it was the diminutive Russian who beat the big Bruins defenseman to set up the winning goal. It isn’t often you’ll see a player standing 5-foot-8 player elude the reach of someone literally a foot taller, but Samsonov was able to utilize his quickness and stickhandling to do just that.

They’ll need more of that tonight, as the Bruins, unhappy with they way they’ve played in all three games so far, look to even things up before heading home.

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