BOSTON -- It looked like what it was: a rested, relaxed, nothing-to-lose team against a team that had played Monday, one that was beaten up, bruised, slow, without its best defenseman and without the crispness and creativity that has been its hallmark.
So it wasn't all that surprising that, at 6:39 of the second period Thursday, the Carolina Hurricanes -- who had swept the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference Second Round and last played six days earlier -- had an 18-9 edge in shots, an advantage that would soon turn into a one-goal lead on the Boston Bruins.
But the Bruins, battered by a six-game second-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets and without suspended defenseman Charlie McAvoy, retreated to their dressing room before the third period and re-evaluated. They refreshed themselves, reminded each other of who they are and what they can be. And then they came out for the third.
[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Hurricanes series coverage]
The game shifted. Quickly.
Aided by two penalties that led to two power-play goals, the Bruins found their game and lifted themselves past the Hurricanes for a 5-2 win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final at TD Garden on Thursday. Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is here Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
"No one's real happy after the second," Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. "We talked about it internally. I'm not going to tell you everything that was said. But we're not real happy about our second period. It's been a bit of an issue for us. So, the guys, they know. They've got to dig in. It's just the way it is.
"It's not magical. It's usually, you've got to outwill a guy on the puck."
Video: Bruins' power play strikes quick in Game 1 victory
Forty-nine seconds after the teams emerged after the second intermission, Hurricanes center Jordan Staal gave the Bruins their opening, called for boarding Chris Wagner. It took nearly all of the power play for the Bruins to break through at 2:26, with 23 seconds remaining in the penalty. Brad Marchand took a shot from the far reaches of the right circle. Petr Mrazek made the save, but the puck bounced to where Boston forward Marcus Johansson was battling with Carolina defenseman Calvin de Haan in front of the net. Johansson connected.
The score was tied 2-2. The second goal didn't take nearly as long.
Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton was called for roughing 15 seconds after the goal, putting the Bruins back on the power play, and 13 seconds after that -- 28 seconds after the tying goal -- Boston scored again.
That goal came from Patrice Bergeron, but was set up when Jake DeBrusk corralled a puck while on his knees, got up, and sent it across the ice to Marchand, who one-touched it to Bergeron, who knocked it in. It was a play built on understanding and knowledge and a keen sense of timing.
The Bruins had the lead. They would not relinquish it.
"Early on in the game, I thought we didn't really execute the way we wanted to on the power play," Bergeron said. "In the third we talked about it, we talked about a few things that we needed to adjust, and I thought we did that and got the result."
The momentum swung their way.
They had been bolstered in the early going by goalie Tuukka Rask, coming off a masterful performance in Game 6 against Columbus, a 39-saves shutout. On Thursday, he made 14 saves on 15 shots in the second period with the Hurricanes controlling the game, doing his best to allow for the opportunities to come in the third, when the Bruins returned to being the Bruins.
"We were getting chances really early and then we backed off," Wagner said. "They woke up and started playing harder. We came in here and talked about how we didn't want to waste one at home and we successfully didn't do that in the third."
Video: CAR@BOS, Gm1: Bruins net two quick PPGs for lead
It was urgency. It was patience. It was understanding that they needed to break the pressure from the aggressive penalty kill of the Hurricanes.
They had been given the gift of remaining in a game that could have been out of reach by that point. But it wasn't.
"You need to stay smart and not panic," Bergeron said. "But at the same time you've got to be better. You've got to execute. You've got to get back competing better. That was the message that was being sent in the locker room."
They were, as he said, a shot away from tying the game.
That was what they talked about, how close they had kept it, how close they were. For a team whose best players have been here before, have been down in big moments, who have found ways to reverse their fortunes, the message clicked.
And, aided by two penalties, their game started to click too.
"I thought the third was the way we want to play," Bergeron said. "I'm not going to lie: The second goal got us going, got the momentum on our side and then we got rolling. The third period was a little bit more the type of game we want to bring."
It was also a cautionary message.
"I know we're able to do it," Bergeron said. "That being said, we've got to be better and try not to put ourselves in that situation."
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