By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- In an NHL playoff game, nothing has permanence. One minute you're up, the next minute you're down. One shift you're riding the momentum, the next shift you're hanging on for dear life.
In one moment, the refs are on your side. The next, they're the enemy.
And on Thursday night in Boston, it was the Carolina Hurricanes -- and specifically, defenseman Dougie Hamilton -- who felt the pain of being on the wrong end of a call at the wrong moment. It cost the game for the visiting team.
"Well I just watched both of them, and I didn't agree with either," Hamilton said of the two minor penalties assessed to him in the third period. "So, not much else to say. The game's over now, and there's not much you can do about it now."
The second penalty was for interference, but it was the first penalty -- for roughing -- that served to sink the Hurricanes on this night.
It came 2:42 into the third period, just 16 seconds after the Bruins netted a power-play goal (following a very legitimate penalty on Jordan Staal) to tie the game at 2-2. Hamilton stood near the boards with his back to the ice as Joakim Nordstrom approached him from behind. Hamilton looked over his shoulder, and in an attempt to hit Nordstrom, Hamilton appeared -- at least in the eyes of referee Dan O'Rourke -- to have connected with an elbow or shoulder to Nordstrom's face.
Nordstrom's head snapped back -- much like Brock McGinn's did to draw a costly penalty on Boston in the first period -- and the referee's arm went up.
The Bruins power play, which entered the night as the most successful power play unit in the NHL playoffs, needed just 13 seconds to score on the ensuing man advantage. Patrice Bergeron's sixth goal of the playoffs gave the Bruins a 3-2 lead. It would hold, as Boston added an empty-netter and a cherry on top to skate away with a 5-2 win in this opening game of the Eastern Conference Final.
That Hamilton was whistled for interference 2:34 later worked to get the Boston crowd fired up, with chants of "DOUG-IE" raining down on the defenseman as he took a seat in the penalty box.
Hamilton insisted after the loss that he didn't care about the chanting. He certainly did care about the penalty calls.
When asked if he believed the referees -- O'Rourke and Marc Joannette -- were calling the game tighter than usual, Hamilton answered, "I'm not gonna comment on the refs."
Yet when asked in the very next question if he believed the penalties came because of a lack of discipline or a lack of luck, Hamilton answered, "I don't think they were penalties. So, neither."
Carolina head coach Rod Brind'Amour may not have personally loved seeing Hamilton head to the box, but he also didn't necessarily complain about the calls either.
"There's no point in commenting on that," Brind'Amour said of the penalties. "There were penalties both ways I thought, some were called and not called. So I mean, there's no point in getting into the officiating."
Brind'Amour was asked if he had been told before the series that refs would be calling games tightly.
"Yeah. They do that every time," Brind'Amour said. "I'm not gonna talk about that. We took penalties, we need to kill 'em. Whether they were good or not, whether there were some let go that we thought should have been called -- I mean, that's gonna happen every night. So, we've gotta come up with a better way to kill 'em, and when we get our power plays, we've gotta make 'em count. It's simple."
No matter what happened in Game 1, special teams were going to be a major story line in this series. As previously mentioned, the Bruins boast the top power play in the NHL this playoffs, now successful at a 30 percent clip after a 2-for-5 night vs. Carolina. And early on in the game, it was the Bruins who might have had a legitimate beef with the way the game was being called.
Certainly, after some vocal disagreement from the Carolina side, the spotlight will burn extra bright on the referees come Game 2 in Boston.
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