Bruins left wing Jake DeBrusk is taken off his feet by Hurricanes goaltender James Reimer but is still able to score during Boston’s come-from-behind 4-3 win over Carolina in Game 4 of their playoff series on Monday in Toronto. Nathan Dennette/The Canadian Press via the Associated Press

Jake DeBrusk’s feet were in the air, but the puck was still on his stick on the ice. After the Bruins’ forward got behind the Carolina defense. Hurricanes goalie James Reimer charged out trying to take DeBrusk out and end the threat.

But the tenor of the game and perhaps his season changed when Debrusk hit the ice.

After DeBrusk’s break out 27-goal, 42-point campaign in his second NHL season a year ago, big things were expected from the 23-year-old speedy winger.

But whether it was increased defensive attention or expectations, he struggled, especially late in the year.

In 14 games covering a month before the NHL season shutdown for it’s pandemic pause, DeBrusk had one goal and no assists. He’d been demoted off the second line and looked unsure of himself at both ends of the ice. If Nick Ritchie had made any kind of an impact after the trade dealine, DeBrusk might never have rejoined David Krejci.

Bruce Cassidy hoped the time off would rekindle their chemistry when practice restarted.

“Sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder, so maybe they’ll reconnect after a little time away,” Cassidy said during return to play camp. But DeBrusk had just one goal through the three round robin games (in fairness the team only had four) and no points in the Games 1-3 vs. Carolina. Their hearts may have been fond, but their passes weren’t turning into goals.

Cassidy saw it weighing on DeBrusk.

“Obviously he’s a guy that measures himself, probably too much, about just with his goal scoring. He can bring other things and hound pucks and make plays and be a net-front presence on the power play, we’ve changed that up a little bit, but there’s other ways you can contribute, especially in the playoffs. But we need some goals, let’s face it, we’re having a tough time, missed some open nets early on and five on five scoring had been a few games.”

The Bruins were trailing 2-0 when Ondrej Kase’s pass launched DeBrusk. In an impressive display of eye-hand coordination and wrist strength, DeBrusk got the shot off even after his legs were taken out and got enough on it to push it into the goalmouth Reimer had vacated.

It wasn’t the biggest postseason goal by a Bruin being tripped on the play, but it was still pretty critical.

Brad Marchand knew what breaking through meant for DeBrusk.

“Especially for his game. He kind of thrives when he gets a goal, gets a bounce. He feeds off of that and gets a ton of confidence. That’s when he’s at his best. We just knew he needed one and he’s been all around it,” Marchand said. “He’s been playing really well. Has had a lot of really good, prime opportunities that he normally puts in. He came up big when we need it. He did a great job tonight. He really stepped up in a big way. … A great game by him tonight. We needed him to step up and he did and came through when it mattered.”

As has been the case before in his career, DeBrusk’s offense often comes in surges. After Connor Clifton and Marchand had put the Bruins ahead 3-2, DeBrusk scored again. This time Kase fed him just off the right post. He cross the front of the net and beat Reimer at the other post to make it 4-2. That goal proved crucial when Carolina scored late.

DeBrusk seemed a mixture of joyful and relieved.

“Anytime you can contribute in a win, it’s huge. Obviously, we’ve had some pretty good looks in the series. I just wanted to try to find my game and just help the team,” he said. “I kind of got lucky on the first one, I’d like to say, and a great play by my linemates on the second one. We rallied to win.”

Cassidy hoped the raindrops foretold a coming storm.

“So good for him, happy for him,” Cassidy said. “Sometimes he gets streaky, so hopefully this sets him off. “

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