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Gravley: Canes clinging to hope for a rare series rally

May 16, 2019

Hope is always a better way to look at it than fear. That’s what Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour said about his team heading into Game 4 facing a sweep by the Boston Bruins. The odds are steep, the challenge incredible but they ain’t dead yet.

Teams that have a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven NHL playoff series are 189-4. That’s 97.9% success rate. The comeback four in a class to themselves are the 1942 Maple Leafs, the 1975 Islanders, the 2010 Flyers and the 2014 Kings. Canes captain Justin Williams was on the 2014 Kings squad from Los Angeles that rallied to beat San Jose.

“Being down 3-0 creates an opportunity for yourself,” Williams said on Wednesday. “That’s the way you have to look at it. You have to instill a little bit of doubt (in your opponent). That’s the first step you have to do. But you have to do that by winning a game.”

The Boston franchise has been on the other side of a comeback, watching a 3-0 lead vanish right before their eyes. Yes, it was nine years ago but Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and a third year goalie Tuukka Rask played in that Game 7 loss to Philadelphia. David Krejci was on the team but was injured and not available in the finale.

I went back and watched a 10 minute highlight clip from that game and found more familiar names that ring a bell in our Southern state. Peter Laviolette was the head coach of Philadelphia, just a year removed from being removed as head coach of the Hurricanes. One of his defensemen was Chris Pronger, who was with Edmonton when the Canes captured the Stanley Cup in 2006. The Flyers had Michael Leighton in goal, who was waived by Carolina in December 2009. Mark Recchi, a member of the Canes 2006 championship team, had a game 7 assist for the Bruins.

The series went back to Boston on May 15, 2010 all even at three. The home crowd was jumping as the Bruins took a 3-0 lead in the first period led by a pair of goals by Milan Lucic. All is good in Beantown as a somewhat innocent goal by James Van Riemsdyk ping-pongs in near the end of the opening period. Oh, James Van Riemskyk is the older brother of current Hurricanes defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk. It’s another connection to the game in 2010, although Trevor is out with an injury in the current series.

Boston went scoreless in the final two periods.

Scott Hartnell and Daniel Briere scored on Tuukka Rask in the second to even the score and boy do things get tense in Boston.

In the third, the Bruins are whistled for too-many-men-on-the ice that gave the Flyers a power play opportunity. Simon Gagne scored with 7:08 to go in what proved to be the game winning goal. It’s a 4-3 road clincher for the Flyers.

The comeback was complete or was it a collapse? It takes a little of both to overcome the odds of a 3-0 series deficit.

“The bottom line is we had a 3-0 lead in the series, we had a 3-0 lead tonight, and we blew them both,” Boston coach Claude Julien said. “We have to take the responsibility that goes with it. Everyone.”

You wonder, has Rask, Chara or Bergeron even let these memories creep into their mind with a 3-0 lead on the Hurricanes? Probably not. Their goal is win one more game, whether it’s Thursday, Saturday, Monday or Wednesday.

The Hurricanes have to bounce off the ropes and find any way they can to get one, single, solitary win to extend the series. “We’ve been hit three times here,” Justin Williams said. “It takes four to knock us down.”

We are a million miles away from even thinking about what Philadelphia did in that 2010 Game 7. But the Flyers had to start somewhere, right? It began at home in Game 4 with a 5-4 overtime win.

What do you think, Hurricanes?