The Boston Bruins treated fans at TD Garden to a 5-2 Game 1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes to begin the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday night.
The Hurricanes were back at full strength with goaltender Petr Mrazek returning to the net after injuring his lower body in Game 2 of their second-round series against the New York Islanders, while the Bruins were without suspended defenseman Charlie McAvoy.
Steven Kampfer started in place of McAvoy, and the 30-year-old defenseman started the scoring less than three minutes into the game. Forty-seven seconds later, though, the Canes answered when Sebastian Aho perfectly redirected an Andrei Svechnikov shot on the power play.
The score marked Aho's ninth career goal in 10 career games against the Bruins. More importantly, the Hurricanes' ability to capitalize right away on their first power-play opportunity of the series was a good sign for a squad that entered Thursday with four goals in 38 power-play chances this postseason (h/t ESPN's Emily Kaplan).
Carolina didn't need a power play to go up 2-1 at the second period's 9:18 mark, as Greg McKegg scooted around the Kampfer to curl the puck behind Tuukka Rask before crashing into the Bruins goaltender.
However, once again, the power play proved an X-factor to watch between these two teams when Hurricanes center Jordan Staal was called for boarding just 49 seconds into the third period. During the Bruins' subsequent power play, Marcus Johansson and Patrick Bergeron each scored to give Boston a definitive 3-2 lead.
From there, the Bruins laid it on thick with two more goals, including an empty-netter, in the final few minutes of regulation. The Hurricanes' season-high six-game winning streak has been snapped, and the tone has been set for the series.
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The @NHLBruins captured Game 1 of the Conference Finals for the fifth time since 1982. Since the conference format was adopted in 1982 campaign, teams that win Game 1 of the Conference Finals own an all-time series record of 42-26 (61.8%). #NHLStats #StanleyCup https://t.co/vBqa0TJ1zC
While the storyline heading into Game 1 was how the absence of McAvoy may affect Boston's defensive line, the offense stole the spotlight in the third period. The five goals conceded by Carolina on Thursday night match how many total goals the Islanders scored against the Hurricanes before being swept last round.
Scoring has not been an issue for the Bruins to this point. Sean Wagner's goal—the fifth and final of the game—meant that 18 different Bruins have scored at least once this postseason, which is the highest number of individual scorers in a Stanley Cup playoff run for Boston since 1990, according to SportsNet Stats.
Even with their extensive depth, Boston will warmly welcome McAvoy back into the starting lineup for Sunday's Game 2. The 21-year-old has contributed one goal, five assists and six points when on the ice so far in these playoffs.
The Hurricanes, meanwhile, will have to regroup and hope that Mrazek's .852 save percentage was an anomaly because their struggles with the power play and penalty kill have been consistent.
The Bruins and Hurricanes will be back at it in TD Garden on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET, televised by NBC.