The App is Back! Don’t forget to download the NBC Sports EDGE app to receive real-time player news, mobile alerts and track your favorite players. Plus, now you can check out articles and player cards. Get it here!
Nothing opens a coach up to criticism more than a surprise goaltending decision in the playoffs. If it works, it’s great, but if it doesn’t, every fan and analyst will throw out “what if” scenarios aimed towards the head coach’s move. Starting Petr Mrazek on Thursday was a particularly bold move for Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour.
With his team down 2-0 in their second round series against Tampa Bay, Brind’Amour decided to bench goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic, who has been one of the Hurricanes’ best players with a 2.18 GAA and .920 save percentage in the 2021 playoffs, in favor of Mrazek, who hadn’t been in the net in nearly a month. Mrazek is a solid goaltender in his own right and Brind’Amour’s decision to mix things up given that his team was down 2-0 in the series was understandable, but if Mrazek was rusty early in the contest or didn’t perform well, then Carolina’s back would be up against the wall and the head coach would have been taking plenty of heat.
That’s not how things played out though. Mrazek rewarded his coach for his fate, playing an important role in Carolina’s 3-2 overtime victory. That in-and-of itself creates another difficult decision for Brind’Amour, who now has to decide between sticking with Mrazek or go back to Nedeljkovic, who again has been great too. Whatever he decides to do next though, Carolina is in a far better position now than it was 24 hours ago.
The series will continue at 4:00pm ET on Saturday. We’ll also resume the Bruins vs. Islanders series starting at 7:15pm ET Saturday night after those teams completed Game 3 last night.
BOSTON 2 NY ISLANDERS 1 (OT) (Bruins lead series 2-1)
Craig Smith opened the scoring for the Bruins with a goal just 5:52 minutes into the contest. It was his second goal and fourth point in seven playoff contests.
That 1-0 lead held until Mathew Barzal scored with just 5:26 minutes left in the third period. That gives him a goal and five points in nine playoff games.
Brad Marchand scored 3:36 minutes into the overtime frame. He’s up to five goals and seven points in eight postseason games.
Semyon Varlamov stopped 39 of 41 shots last night. He dropped to 1-4 in the 2021 playoffs, but you can’t put this loss on him.
He got more work than Tuukka Rask, who saved 28 of 29 shots. He has a 6-2 record, 1.93 GAA, and .934 save percentage in eight postseason contests.
CAROLINA 3 TAMPA BAY 2 (OT) (Lightning lead series 2-1)
As noted above, Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour made the controversial decision to start Petr Mrazek over Alex Nedeljkovic for Game 3. Granted, Carolina dropped the first two games, but Nedeljkovic allowed just two goals in each of those contests, so those defeats were hardly on him. All the same, Mrazek delivered, stopping 35 of 37 shots in his first start of the 2021 playoffs.
Jordan Staal and Brett Pesce found the back of the net just 2:25 minutes apart from each other to give the Hurricanes a 2-0 lead in the second period. Aho also contributed two helpers, giving him six goals and 10 points in nine playoff contests.
Jordan Staal scored the overtime winner on the power play at 5:57. It was his fifth goal and seventh point in nine postseason games.
Andrei Vasilevskiy kicked out 24 of 27 Hurricanes shots. He fell to 6-3 with a 2.29 GAA and .935 save percentage in nine playoff contests