RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)Twice before, the Carolina Hurricanes had reached the playoffs only to see their ascent to becoming a serious Stanley Cup contender blocked by the Boston Bruins.
Two newcomers helped the Hurricanes finally push past their playoff bully – and in a Game 7, at that.
Midseason acquisition Max Domi scored twice in the second period while Antti Raanta had 27 saves to help the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Boston Bruins 3-2 on Saturday to win their first-round playoff series.
Teuvo Teravainen also scored for the Hurricanes, who finally put away a team that swept them in the 2019 Eastern Conference finals then took a five-game first-round series in the Toronto bubble a year later.
”It’s such a different feeling coming into this one,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour said. ”I think back in the other ones, if we would’ve won, you guys might have been a little surprised.
”This time around, I felt like it was our time. Our guys have matured. I think they felt that, too.”
Carolina moves on to the second round to face the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the New York Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
One thing is certain: winning the Metropolitan Division title paved the way by securing home-ice advantage. This was a series in which neither team could manage a road win, with the Hurricanes eventually getting the final word backed by yet another rowdy home crowd.
”Obviously we needed one on the road, and we couldn’t do that,” Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron said.
Carolina hung on after squandering a 2-0 series lead and then a clunker performance in Thursday’s Game 6 loss with a chance to advance.
”Game 7, Game 4, 5, 6 – whatever it is, you’re advancing, which is the best thing,” defenseman Jaccob Slavin said.
Domi was an unlikely star in this one. Carolina acquired him ahead of the March trade deadline, and he rewarded them with his first career postseason goals. He also assisted on Teravainen’s goal with a perfect pass to the top of the crease for the first-period putaway.
”Obviously I was pretty lucky to come to a team like this,” Domi said.
Then there’s Raanta, who joined Frederik Andersen in the team’s overhaul of its goaltender position. But with Andersen injured late in the regular season, Raanta took the lead in the crease despite never starting a postseason game before.
He was again steady in net. His biggest stop came early with a full-split save to deny Taylor Hall near the left post on a 2-on-1 chance in the first period of a scoreless game.
David Pastrnak scored one with 21.7 seconds left with Boston having pulled Jeremy Swayman for the extra attacker. From there, the Hurricanes had to hang on through one tense clock-killing shift before they could celebrate.
”When they got the second one, it was probably the longest 20 seconds in my life for sure,” Raanta said.
Jake DeBrusk scored in the second period for the Bruins, while Swayman finished with 28 saves. But the Bruins found themselves playing catch-up after Domi’s first goal, which had him skating in on the left side to bury a redirect attempt from Jordan Staal at 3:14 of the second.
Later, after DeBrusk had beaten Raanta from the top of the crease, Teravainen whipped a pass to Domi for a one-timer. The puck zipped past Swayman at 10:33 of the second for the 3-1 lead and another goal coming within a few feet of the crease.
”We pride ourselves on D-zone coverage, stuff we’ve done very well all year,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. ”Two breakdowns that, yeah, they made plays, but more on us not to get the job done defensively – be in the right spots, good sticks.”
The Hurricanes improved to 6-0 in Game 7s since the former Hartford Whalers relocated to North Carolina in 1997. That includes the 2006 Stanley Cup finals against Edmonton, as well as a second-round overtime win at Boston in 2009 – which came 13 years earlier to the day.
The Bruins were in their sixth straight playoffs. But this marks the first time Boston exited without winning a series since falling in a six-game series to Ottawa in 2017.
Bergeron, the longtime No. 1 center, can become an unrestricted free agent after 18 seasons with the team. He has declined to talk about a new contract during the year, creating a possibility he could leave or retire.
He wasn’t ready afterward to think about what’s next.
”It’s too fresh right now,” Bergeron said. ”It still stings obviously from a hard-fought series. Came up short, so obviously I’m going to have to think about it. But I’m not there right now.
The Hurricanes had their biggest home crowd in franchise history with an attendance of 19,513. That surpassed the previous mark of 19,495 during the final win in a second-round sweep of the New York Islanders in 2019.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aaronbeardap
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports