NHL pushes game back a day after 4 overtimes in playoff opener

NHL pushes game back a day after 4 overtimes in playoff opener

As the Boston Bruins watched from their locker room at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, waiting for the previous game to end so they could take the ice, the players began rooting for someone — anyone — to score.

And to think: They said these Stanley Cup playoffs wouldn’t have fans.

“Players were waiting around, wondering what was happening, encouraging both teams to shoot, get it over with,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said after Boston’s playoff opener against the Carolina Hurricanes was postponed because the previous game had run into a fifth overtime.

“It’s unique all around this year,” Cassidy said on a conference call from the team hotel. “But to play a game at 11 o’clock (p.m.), I think they made the right call.”

The Bruins and Hurricanes, who had been scheduled to face off at 8 p.m. Tuesday, will instead play Game 1 of their best-of-seven series at 11 a.m. Wednesday. The league announced the decision to postpone the game at 8:47 p.m., shortly after the Columbus Blue Jackets and Tampa Bay Lighting ended their fourth overtime, still tied 2-2, “due to the length of the Lightning-Blue Jackets game.”

Brayden Point scored 10:27 into the fifth overtime to lift Tampa Bay to a 3-2 victory, ending the game at about 9:20 p.m. — almost six hours after it began. At 150 minutes, 27 seconds, it was the fourth-longest game in Stanley Cup playoff history.

Cassidy said that as it dragged on, he began to worry what the ice condition would be after more than 140 minutes of hockey. And he worried whether his players, who had been waiting at the rink since 5 p.m., would be fatigued for a game that could start at 11 p.m. or later. (The NHL had originally hoped for 90 minutes between games.)

“It’s obviously strange, to wait that long and find out you may or may not play,” Cassidy said. “Then you starting thinking: Is it productive to play at that time at night?”

Cassidy said he and his coaching staff watched in their designated bunker and tried to stay out of the way of the Lightning and Blue Jackets, as well as the crews that were cleaning the floors between periods.

“We’re actually crossing paths with the Tampa and the Columbus coaches. … It’s a very interesting dynamic,” Cassidy said. “It’s playoffs. You want to respect their space and time.”

Carolina’s social media staff stayed busy, tweeting: “Hey @NHL, not to tattle but we were supposed to play at 8:00 and the @BlueJacketsNHL and @TBLightning won’t get off the ice.”

And the Bruins tried to remain focused, too.

After going to the Stanley Cup Final last year, and losing to the St. Louis Blues in seven games, Boston won the Presidents’ Trophy with the best record in hockey during the pandemic-shortened regular season. But the Bruins lost all three of their round-robin seeding games to fall to the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, and Cassidy acknowledged on Monday, “The first game … it can’t come soon enough.”

Now he’ll have to wait even one day longer than he expected.

“We were building our game toward having another playoff run. Now we’re ready to get going,” he said. “It’s disappointing we didn’t get to play tonight… but we’ll have the same emotion tomorrow. I firmly believe that. I think Carolina will be the same.”

___

For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Jimmy Golen, The Associated Press

NHL

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