Jaroslav Halak stopped 29 shots after goaltender Tuukka Rask opted out of the NHL playoffs and Charlie Coyle provided plenty of offense, scoring once and setting up another goal to help the Boston Bruins beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-1 and take a 2-1 lead in their first-round series.
Rask’s absence was announced Saturday morning and it did not seem to rattle the defending Eastern Conference champions later in the day.
The Vezina Trophy finalist is the highest-profile player to opt out of the league’s return from the coronavirus pandemic shutdown. Rask led the NHL with a 2.12 goals-against average and helped Boston reach Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final last year.
Rask left the league’s bubble in Toronto to be with his wife and three young children, including a newborn.
Game 4 is Monday night, when fifth-seeded Carolina may be without Andrei Svechnikov against fourth-seeded Boston. The 20-year-old Russian forward was injured late in the game when his right leg, near his ankle, buckled after getting tied up with Bruins defender Zdeno Chara in front of the net.
In Game 3, Boston was without star David Pastrnak for a second straight game due to an undisclosed ailment.
Coyle did his part to make up for the loss.
He broke a scoreless tie, scoring on a power play off a rebound in the opening seconds of the second period. Coyle batted the puck out of the air and past Petr Mrazek after the goaltender stopped Brad Marchand’s shot that was set up by David Krejci’s pass off the end boards.
Mrazek made a save to keep it a one-goal game later in the second period, going low to smother Ondrej Kase’s shot on a breakaway. Mrazek finished with 36 saves.
Halak came out of net midway through the second period to prevent Justin Williams from getting a shot off to potentially tie the game.
The Hurricanes had an opportunity to tie it late in the second period or early in the third on a power play, but Boston took advantage. Coyle made a centering pass to set up Sean Kuraly for a score 1:16 into the third to give Boston a two-goal cushion.
Nino Niederreiter scored later in the third to pull the Hurricanes within a goal.
Marchand ended Carolina’s comeback chances by tapping the puck into an empty net with 30.9 seconds left to restore Boston’s two-goal lead and lead in the series after winning Game 1 in double overtime.