The Boston Bruins came into PNC Arena on Sunday badly needing a win, badly needing two points.
The Bruins finally got the win and the points, and some breathing room in their fight for a playoff spot, but needed overtime to beat the Carolina Hurricanes 2-1.
David Pastrnak’s goal with 37 seconds left in overtime decided it. It ended a game in which the Canes had more shots, more scoring opportunities and more hits while dominating the faceoff circle.
“I thought it was a hard-fought hockey game,” Canes coach Bill Peters said. “I thought we matched their intensity, if not exceeded it at times.
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“We had our looks in the third (period). We hit a few posts, they hit a few posts, both goaltenders were good. I thought it was a real high-end game at this time of the year.”
Pastrnak, a rookie from the Czech Republic, scored from the slot off a pass from Carl Soderberg as the Canes had a coverage breakdown. Pastrnak also assisted on Ryan Spooner’s goal early in the game.
The Bruins (38-25-13) are in the thick of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference, clinging to the second wild-card berth. Boston entered Sunday’s game with a 1-point lead over the Ottawa Senators, who have a game in hand on the Bruins but were beaten 4-2 by the Florida Panthers on Sunday.
The Canes (28-36-11) and Bruins both were playing the second game in back-to-back sets. The Bruins ended an 0-3-3 slide with a 4-2 win Saturday over the New York Rangers while the Canes topped the New Jersey Devils 3-1 and had won two straight.
Nathan Gerbe tied the score 1-1 for the Canes with a goal with 21.3 seconds left in the second period. But neither goalie – Anton Khudobin for the Canes, Tuukka Rask for Boston – would be beaten the rest of regulation and much of overtime, each making some sparkling stops.
“The goal at the end of the second really energized us,” said Canes forward Chris Terry, who set up Gerbe’s goal off the rush. “We played a team that’s fighting to get in the playoffs and playing some of their best hockey and we played with them for 64 minutes. We’re proving to ourselves we can play with these teams.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien praised the Canes, saying, “They’re a good team. They play hard, they skate well, they close quickly and they don’t give anybody easy games. It’s a little mind-boggling for me to see them in the position they’re in right now.”
The Bruins took a 1-0 lead a little more than two minutes into the game, Spooner beating Khudobin with a shot from the slot.
The Canes’ speed down the ice finally paid off late in the second. Defenseman Danny Biega chipped the puck out of the Carolina zone to Terry along the right boards, and Terry found Gerbe open on a two-on-one for his eighth goal of the season.
Both teams had power plays in the first 10 minutes of the third. Canes defenseman Justin Faulk found the post, and Carl Soderberg had a good rebound chance for the Bruins.
Midway through the period, Elias Lindholm and Jeff Skinner took off on a two-on-one. Lindholm’s pass was on target but Skinner’s chip hit the post.
Canes defenseman Ron Hainsey was called for a penalty with less than two minutes to play in regulation. Breaking his stick trying to get off a shot from the point, Hainsey hurled part of the stick toward the puck, but the Canes killed off the penalty.
Rask left the Rangers game in the second period Saturday because of dehydration. Bouncing back, he had 30 saves in a game the Bruins needed to win.
Khudobin, who had 28 stops, was facing his former team for the second time, having beaten the Bruins in a 2-1 shootout on Jan. 4. Cam Ward had been the starter the past two games, wins over the Pittsburgh Penguins and Devils.
Canes center Riley Nash was a late scratch, taking a puck in the face during pregame warmups. Peters did not have an update after the game but said “it doesn’t sound good.”
Brad Malone, who was to be a healthy scratch, replaced Nash as the third-line center, although Peters did some line juggling during the game.