Patrice Bergeron and Marcus Johansson scored 28 seconds apart on the powerplay as the Boston Bruins defeated the visiting Carolina Hurricanes in the opening game of their Eastern Conference NHL final on Thursday.
Goaltender Tuukka Rask stopped 29 shots for the Bruins who stretched their winning streak to four straight games and snapped Carolina's at six.
The Bruins are assured of home ice advantage throughout the playoffs so game two of the best-of-seven series is Sunday in Boston.
Boston lost three of their first five games to open their first-round series against Toronto, but key performers like Rask and Czech forward David Pastrnak appeared to have hit their stride as the Bruins' run goes deeper into the postseason.
"We earned home ice by playing well all year," said forward Chris Wagner, who had a goal. "We didn't want to come out with our C or D game in game one."
The Bruins came back from a 2-1 series deficit against the Columbus Blue Jackets on their way to advancing to a third conference final this decade. In the deciding game six, Rask carried the team with a 39-save shutout while Pastrnak led the resurgence in game five with two goals.
Sebastian Aho and Greg McKegg scored for Carolina on Thursday, and Petr Mrazek stopped 23 shots in his return from a two-game absence following a lower-body injury.
The Hurricanes took a 2-1 lead into the third period before they fell apart and took a string of penalties.
"They compete and they are physical all over (the) ice but maybe to a fault, so we got to take advantage of the powerplays," said Wagner.
Jordan Staal boarded Wagner to lead to Johansson's score, and Dougie Hamilton roughed Joakim Nordstrom ahead of Bergeron's go-ahead tally.
The Hurricanes pulled Mrazek with the score 3-2 and 2:38 remaining, but Charlie Boyle and Wagner put the game away for Boston with empty-netters 11 seconds apart.
Hurricanes coach Rod Brind'Amour refused after the game to play the referee card and blame poor officiating for their loss.
"There were penalties both ways that were called and not called. There is no point in blaming the officiating," Brind'Amour said. "We took penalties and we need to kill them.
"Whether they are good or bad, whether we thought there were some that should or shouldn't have been called, that's going to happen every night."
The Bruins were without defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who was suspended one game as the result of an illegal check to the head of Columbus forward Josh Anderson in Monday's game six.
Canadian Patrice Bergeron (37) of the Boston Bruins celebrates after scoring a goal during the third period against the Carolina Hurricanes