Reality setting in for underdog Hurricanes as Bruins push them to brink

Time is up for the “Bunch of Jerks”, their mascot Hamilton the Pig and all the other sideshows in Raleigh, N.C.

Look, it has been a great run for the Carolina Hurricanes.

They have a truckload of young talent and a wonderful leader in head coach Rod Brind’Amour. They beat the odds in dispatching the defending-champion Washington Capitals in seven games in the first round and were even better in their second-round sweep of the New York Islanders.

But after the Hurricanes dropped a difficult 2-1 decision to fall behind 3-0 in their best-of-seven East final against the Boston Bruins at home on Tuesday evening, Carolina knows the end to their season is near.

They know they soon will join the Capitals, Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay Lightning, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Vegas Golden Knights, Nashville Predators, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars on the sidelines.

Reality has set in.

The Hurricanes will not beat the Bruins four games in a row. They are not going to beat the Bruins the way Boston goalie Tuukka Rask and the B’s special teams have performed in the East final.

Sure, the way the Hurricanes started Game 4, they had an excellent chance in extending their five-game win streak at home and making a series out of the East final.

But after they played a feisty, determined first period, after they mustered a whopping 33 shot attempts (20 on goal, eight missed and five blocked by the Bruins) in the first period and departed for the dressing room for the first intermission with a goal-less 0-0 draw, the realization kicked in that this Bruins club was no match for the underdogs from Carolina.

Rask was sensational. The Hurricanes power play was not.

Boston Bruins’ Chris Wagner (14) and Brandon Carlo (25) celebrate Wagner’s goal against Carolina Hurricanes goalie Curtis McElhinney during the second period. (Gerry Broome/The Associated Press)

They had six minutes in man-advantage time in the first period, including 45 seconds of 5-on-3 play, but Carolina could not squeeze a puck past the Finnish netminder.

To boot, there were so many near misses that went wide or over the top of the Bruins goal. Rask gave his team enough time to regroup, enough time to quell the raucous atmosphere inside the PNC Arena.

Hurricanes captain Justin Williams did his best to lead. But his emotions uncharacteristically got the best of him. It was understandable.

He succumbed like many before him to the antics of super-pest Bruins left wing Brad Marchand late in Game 2.

Marchand mocked the Carolina captain, calling him out for an undisciplined penalty.

Williams admitted between Games 2 and 3 that he should know better.

“Sometimes you’ve got to eat a poop sandwich,” Williams said. “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.”

WATCH | Brad Marchand mocks Justin Williams:

Brad Marchand was at it again in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference final, getting under the skin of Carolina Hurricanes’ captain Justin Williams. 1:18

The taste, however, still lingered. As has been the case so many times in this impressive playoff run for the Bruins, their fourth line ignited a much better second period for Boston.

Joakim Nordstrom and Sean Kuraly forced a turnover inside the Hurricanes blue line. Then it was Kuraly to Nordstrom to local Boston right wing Chris Wagner for the game’s first goal.

Late in the game, Wagner injured his right arm blocking a shot. But it was a few shifts after the Wagner goal, a Marchand backhand deflected off the left glove of Carolina defenceman Calvin de Haan for a 2-0 lead.

It was a de Haan blast late in the second period that somehow found its way between the pads of Rask to make the rest of the game tense. But Rask was relentless and extended his team’s win streak to six games and ended the Hurricanes five-game win streak at home.

His 35-save effort has the Bruins one win away from their third Stanley Cup final in eight years and one more loss for the end of the “Bunch of Jerks.”

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