(Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism

When the Boston Bruins entered the third period on Wednesday night, it looked like their five-game winning streak was at risk. The Carolina Hurricanes were out-playing the Bruins up and down Causeway Street, holding a convincing 2-0 lead with all the momentum in the world. A line shuffle and a Brad Marchand signature performance later, it was a whole new ballgame.   

Jim Mongomery bumped Trent Frederic up with Marchand and Charlie Coyle, leading to a third-period pushback ignited by the fresh line pairing. The trio combined for a pair of goals in just under six minutes to put Boston back in the driver’s seat, and they never looked back—until everything they worked for in the period evaporated. Hampus Lindholm made an ill-advised pinch for the puck in the final 2:30 of play, resulting in the puck in the back of his net. Here are three takeaways that led to Boston’s defeat in their last game at TD Garden in 13 days. The Bruins are now 29-9-9, with two games left before the break.

Special Teams Weren’t Special

The story of the game was written in the special teams. Carolina went two-for-three on the power play and three-for-three on the penalty kill, and Boston had nothing to show for it. The Bruins whiffed on a third-period man advantage with a chance to gain the lead amidst being blanked on four power play attempts throughout the game. Carolina started the scoring on the power play when Martin Necas beat a screened Linus Ullmark with a wrist shot, following it up with another special teams score in the second. This time, it was Teuvo Teravainen batting home a goal in a net-front scrum.

“We knew they had one of the best power plays in the league, and we took some stick penalties in the (offensive) zone,” said Marchand after the game. “That hurt us. We didn’t kill. They went two-for-three, it’s tough to compete with a team like that.”

Boston learned how dangerous Carolina’s power play indeed was on Wednesday night. Holding the third-best power play percentage in the National Hockey League at 27.0%, the Hurricanes stretch the opposing penalty kill, overloading one side before they attack the goal line. If done effectively, two-on-one opportunities will present themselves in front of the goal with a spread-out defense. While Carolina didn’t convert on one of those chances, they exemplified their ability to move the puck on both goals.

“They move the puck well,” said Montgomery. “They shoot pucks. They’re really good in-zone… I thought their penalty kill was better than our power play tonight.”

Line Swap Pays Off

The Bruins needed an offensive spark, and Frederic provided it. Montgomery placed him on the wing alongside Coyle and Marchand, resulting in two goals for the Captain to get the Bruins back in the game. Frederic was fast, physical, and aggressive, qualities he’s brought to the Bruins all season long.

“There wasn’t much going on,” Montgomery said of the lines. “I thought Frederic was skating well, so that’s why I moved him up there…I thought that face off goal they scored was all him. Just carrying the puck, attacking middle, making a great play to Charlie Coyle and getting that puck to the net. Trent Frederic is a real confident player, he’s playing real good hockey for us now.”

Frederic had a hand in both goals, picking up assists on both. He won a puck battle in the corner on the first goal, working the puck to the point where he’d eventually get it back. Frederic punched another puck out of the corner, squirting it free to an open Marchand, who cashed in. He played give-and-go with Coyle on the second goal, resulting in a tap-in rebound for Marchand.

“He’s been phenomenal this year,” said Marchand. “He’s taken another big step. The way he’s competing and moving his feet and holding onto pucks, you can see his confidence right now. He’s seeing the ice really well and he’s not scared to hold onto it and make that extra play. It’s paying off, he did a great job setting up both those goals.”

Game Management Stings Bruins

Lindholm made a questionable decision to play a puck in the final minutes, leading to an odd-man rush and an eventual breakaway toward Ullmark. Martinook’s shot found twine, serving as the dagger in the heart of the Bruins after a third-period comeback. Boston wasn’t disciplined in crunch time, and it cost them two points.

“The game management at the end of the game was not good,” said Montgomery. That’s what cost us the game…A defenseman should not be pinching there. It’s two-two, there’s a shot on net, we have to make sure we keep people in front of us.”

It was the lone flaw in a period filled with positives for the Black and Gold, outshooting Carolina 12-10 while regaining the game’s flow. Playing from behind against a gritty and persistent team like Carolina will not work against most teams in the league, including the Bruins.

“The effort there in the third, that was there,” said Coyle. “That’s a sign of what we have, but we need more of that early on. It’s hard enough in this league to get in a hole like that.”

The Bruins return to the ice tomorrow against the Ottawa Senators before a trip to Philadelphia to play the Flyers, sending Boston into the All-Star break.