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Bruins bulldoze Hurricanes in Game 2 of Eastern Conference final

BOSTON — It was with 1:38 remaining in the second period when fans began chanting, “We want the Cup.”

It was only Game 2. And it was only the Eastern Conference final. But yeah, the Boston Bruins can smell it.

The Stanley Cup is within their grasp.

The fans know it. And so do the Bruins.

After Sunday night’s 6-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes, the Bruins are just two more wins away from reaching the final for the first time since 2013, and just more six wins away from winning its second championship in nine years. Based on the way that they’re playing right now, achieving both seems a foregone conclusion.

“One of our best efforts in the playoffs,” said Bruins forward Danton Heinen. “We took care of business at home.”

Now, it’s time for the Bruins to take care of business on the road, with Game 3 being played in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday.

“We’re going down to their building,” said Bruins defenceman Charlie McAvoy. “We’re on a mission.”

Boston had come back to win Game 1 on a pair of power play goals in the third period. But Sunday night’s lopsided win was less dramatic and more complete. The Bruins played like a team that finished the season with the second-most points in the East.

They are getting production from their stars. But more importantly, they are getting significant contributions from their depth players, with 19 different players having found the back of the net since the playoffs began.

Third-pairing defenceman Matt Grzelcyk scored twice in Game 2 — he had three goals all season — while his partner, rookie Connor Clifton, scored for the first time in his career. The Bruins also received another all-world effort from goaltender Tuukka Rask, who stopped 21 of 23 shots.

Add it up and it’s not a surprise that the Bruins, who are the highest seeded team remaining in a playoffs full of upsets, are now heavily favoured to win the Cup.

“It’s a talented group,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We can skate with anybody. I think when we’re on our game and skating, we’re as good of a skating game as any in the league.”

The Hurricanes, meanwhile, looked like a team whose fairy-tale season is coming to an end. It certainly looks that way for goaltender Petr Mrazek, who after allowing four goals in Game 1, gave up six goals on 25 shots.

“I think it felt worse than it actually was,” said Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour. “I look up and we had 25 shots that we have given up. It felt like 80 … we have to regroup.”

Then again, it’s worth noting that the Hurricanes have been in this position before. More than once.

In the first round, Carolina also lost Games 1 and 2 against the Washington Capitals, before tying up the series with back-to-back wins at home. And in that same series, the Hurricanes lost 6-0 to the Capitals in Game 5. But they also came back to win Game 6.

So don’t count them out just yet.

“We’re going to have to flush this one away like Game 5 in Washington,” said Hurricanes forward Jordan Staal. “Feed off the crowd and feed off the atmosphere.”

If the Hurricanes hope to continue that trend, they will have to figure out a way to put some pucks past Rask — and at the same time, keep the pucks out of their own net.

Mrazek, who gave up four goals in Game 1, hasn’t looked like the same goalie since going down with a groin injury in the second round. He’s overplaying the puck and giving up too many rebounds. Boston’s first goal dribbled through his body, while he was wildly out of position on a couple of other goals.

It could be time for Carolina to turn to Curtis McElhinney, who gave up four goals in three games while Mrazek was battling a groin injury in the second round, to take over the net. It could also be time for Brind’Amour to talk to his players again about being more disciplined.

Boston’s No. 1-ranked power play, which was a main reason why the Bruins won Game 1, scored two goals in Game 2. One of the penalties was totally unnecessary, with Justin Williams getting called for retaliating against Brad Marchand for a hook that the referees missed.

In that way, the Bruins’ experience is shining through. They’ve been here before. They know what it takes to win, which at times meant turning the other cheek while the Hurricanes came out hitting everything in sight.

For the Bruins, it was a matter of withstanding the early surge and capitalizing on their chances.

With five minutes remaining in the first period, Grzelcyk snuck past Mrazek. It was a goal gave the Bruins life. Three minutes later, Williams took a tripping penalty at the end of a long shift. Once again, the Bruins power play made them pay, this time with Jake DeBrusk jamming in a rebound.

The Bruins scored twice more in the second period on goals from Clifton and Grzelcyk, and then put the game out of reach with goals from David Backes and Heinen in the third that made it 6-0. Though Carolina scored twice at the end of the period, this one was over by then.

Unless Carolina can hold serve, the same might be said of the series.

MRAZEK SAID NO TO GOALIE CHANGE

Carolina Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour said he considered making a goalie change during a 6-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Sunday. But Petr Mrazek wouldn’t allow it.

“We talked about it, but he doesn’t want to come out,” said Brind’Amour. “He’s a battler. A lot of other guys deserve to come out if that’s how we’re doing it. So that’s not how we do it … we’re not going to let him off the hook and we’re not going to let anybody off the hook.

Mrazek, who allowed six goals on 25 shots in Game 1, might have convinced his coach to keep him in for the entire game. But after giving up 10 goals in two games against the Bruins, is it time for the Hurricanes to turn the net over to back-up Curtis McElhinney?

“I don’t know,” said Brind’Amour. “We’re going to let this one digest for a little bit and then move forward.”

McElhinney, who last played in Game 4 against the New York Islanders, allowed just four goals when filling in for an injured Mrazek in the second-round. He went 20-11-2 with a .912 save percentage during the regular season.

mtraikos@postmedia.com

twitter.com/Michael_Traikos

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