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Conference Final

Hurricanes need to regroup ahead of Game 3 against Bruins

Fail to even Eastern Final after they 'were not good enough' in Game 2 loss

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- The Carolina Hurricanes did very little right in their 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in the Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final at TD Garden on Sunday.

Petr Mrazek's goaltending was subpar, their defensive-zone coverage and compete level were lacking, they never came close to establishing their forecheck, and their special teams were terrible. It all added up to a lopsided loss that left the Hurricanes trailing 2-0 in the best-of-7 series with Game 3 at Carolina on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

But the moment that stood out and best summed up Carolina's entire afternoon was captain Justin Williams' retaliatory holding penalty against Brad Marchand with 3:53 remaining in the second period. Marchand yanked Williams down to the ice with a stick around his shoulders, prompting Williams to get up and grab Marchand's helmet by the chin strap.

 

[RELATED: Bruins extend series lead over Hurricanes | Complete series coverage]

 

Williams was called for holding. Marchand, who rarely misses an abrasive opportunity, rubbed it in by pointing toward the penalty box and forming a C with his right hand on his left shoulder, reminding Williams that his response wasn't very captain-like.

Williams agreed.

"I've got to know better," Williams said. "I've just got to know better. I'm old enough, I should be able to know better."

That Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk scored his second goal of the game on the resulting power play, increasing Boston's lead to 4-0 with 2:04 left in the second period, pounded home that point.

Williams, a three-time Stanley Cup winner and Carolina's unquestioned leader, has done so much right during his first season as captain. The Hurricanes might not have qualified for, or gotten anywhere near this far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, without the 37-year-old's steadying leadership, which is why his on-ice reaction to Marchand was so out of character.

Video: CAR@BOS, Gm2: Williams has unique perspective on loss

And why Williams was disappointed in himself.

"I'm disappointed in general. Absolutely," he said. "I've got to know better."

Maybe Williams taking ownership of that moment will at least set an example for the rest of the Hurricanes, who all need to look in the mirror after their disappointing performance Sunday.

"He's a stand-up guy," Carolina center Sebastian Aho said. "Everyone can be better, and he says that out loud because when he steps up, we follow him."

The Hurricanes are playing a talented and well-coached Bruins team, who have won five consecutive playoff games since trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 in the second round, but Carolina knows it hasn't come close to playing its best thus far in the series.

Before Williams' redirection goal with 8:43 remaining in the third period cut it to 6-1, Boston had scored 10 consecutive goals since trailing 2-1 after two periods in a 5-2 win in Game 1 on Thursday.

Mrazek struggled Sunday in allowing six goals on 25 shots, including a soft one to Grzelcyk from the left circle that opened the scoring with 4:38 left in the first period. While Carolina didn't give Mrazek a lot of help, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour has to at least consider switching to backup Curtis McElhinney for Game 3. 

But Brind'Amour wasn't ready to discuss that after the game Sunday. He knows there are a lot of other areas of the game they need to clean up. 

They have yet to find a solution to the Bruins' power play, which is 4-for-7 in the series, including 2-for-2 in Game 2. And after scoring on their first power play of the series and showing some promise on their other two man-advantage opportunities in Game 1, the Hurricanes went back to struggling in Game 2, going 0-for-4.

They are 5-for-45 (11.1 percent) on the power play in the playoffs.

"Looking back at the game, we were not good enough," Hurricanes center Jordan Staal said. "Our 5-on-5 play is not good enough, our special teams (are) not good enough. It's just all around everything. Everyone has to chip in, everyone has to grind more, and everyone has to be more desperate."

Video: Reaction to Bruins' huge Game 2 win against Carolina

If there's a positive for Carolina, it's that it was in the same situation against the Washington Capitals in the first round. The Hurricanes lost the first two games of that series on the road and came back to win it in seven games.

The games at Washington were closer -- a 4-2 loss in Game 1 and a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 2 -- but Carolina at least has recent experience to fall back upon.

"Two different series, but a lot of similarities in how we've been getting beat, I think," Brind'Amour said. "I don't know. The score here, to me, this night felt worse than it actually was. I look up and we have like 25 shots or something given up and it felt like we gave up 80.  … So we're going to have to regroup."

Before this series began, the Hurricanes had won six straight games, including a sweep against the New York Islanders in the second round. Williams believes they lost their identity as a hard-working, relentless team somewhere between their 5-2 series-clinching win in Game 4 against the Islanders on May 3 and Game 1 against the Bruins on Thursday.

Now, they have to figure out how to get it back. Quickly.

"I think just all in all we've got to rediscover who we are," Williams said. "You spend all this time off leading up and everyone writing articles about how great we are and then you come out and sometimes you've got to eat a poop sandwich. It doesn't taste good, and you have to chew on it for a little bit, and we'll have to do it for a couple days and get the taste out of our mouths next game."

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