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Bruins sweep Hurricanes to reach Stanley Cup Final

By JOEDY McCREARY

AP Sports Writer

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Boston's top line kept finding ways to score, especially on the power play. With a chance to clinch another series, Tuukka Rask was perfect - again.

Rask posted his seventh career playoff shutout, and the Bruins swept the Carolina Hurricanes out of the Eastern Conference final, winning 4-0 on Thursday night to reach their third Stanley Cup Final in nine years.

"Everyone in the room wanted to be at their best," forward Brad Marchand said, "and everyone was at their best tonight."

Rask made 24 saves in his second straight series-clinching shutout. Patrice Bergeron scored two goals, David Pastrnak had a goal and two assists and Marchand added an empty-netter. Both Bergeron and Pastrnak scored on second-period power plays.

The Bruins won their seventh straight postseason game - their longest playoff winning streak in nearly half a century - to return to the Cup final after winning in 2011 and losing to Chicago two years later.

"It's so difficult to advance in the playoffs, let alone make it to the final," said Rask, the backup to Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas in 2011. "We need to really enjoy this but realize we have a lot of work to do."

On its longest postseason win streak since reeling off nine straight in 1972, Boston earned a break before taking on the West winner. San Jose leads its series with St. Louis 2-1 heading into Game 4 Friday night.

The Bruins won this one without captain Zdeno Chara, who was scratched with an unspecified injury and is day to day, ending a run of 98 consecutive playoff games for the hulking 42-year-old veteran that dated to 2011.

Chara joined his teammates on the ice for the post-series handshake line with Carolina, and while coach Bruce Cassidy declined to elaborate on the nature of Chara's injury, he did say he's expected back for the start of the Cup final.

Curtis McElhinney made 19 saves for the Hurricanes, whose first playoff appearance since 2009 ended precisely the same way their previous postseason trip did - by being swept in the East final.

"Listen, the tank's been low for a long time," captain Justin Williams said. "It's been running on adrenaline and sheer will. It's always tough to swallow when the season ends, just abruptly like that. It's like you're cut real quick. And you've got to go home."

Carolina got this far by sweeping the New York Islanders in Round 2. Not that the extra rest time helped the Hurricanes, or anyone else in these playoffs: No team that swept its opponent has won its next series.

After outscoring them 17-5 in four games, Boston no doubt wants to halt that trend - especially with the sport's biggest prize on the line.

Special teams drove this series, with the Bruins scoring seven power-play goals in the four games while the Hurricanes had five during their entire 15-game postseason run. Boston had at least one power-play goal in every game while Carolina failed to score on its last 13 chances with the man advantage.

So it was no surprise that Boston took control with its best-in-the-playoffs power-play unit.

Eighteen seconds into a minor on the Hurricanes for having too many men on the ice, Pastrnak finished off a slick give-and-go with Marchand, getting past Calvin de Haan and slipping the puck into an open net at 4:46 of the second.

"Everything's going OK, then we get into that specialty area where that's obviously a huge advantage for them," coach Rod Brind'Amour said. "And they made us pay."

With Greg McKegg in the box for goaltender interference, the Bruins scored on another give-and-go involving Pastrnak, who set up Bergeron's goal with 1:26 left in the second.

Rask - who blanked Columbus 3-0 in the decisive sixth game of the previous series - didn't even face a shot on goal for roughly the first half of the third, and only seven for the entire period.

"Tuukka's been very consistent," Cassidy said. "Usually, if you're going to get on a roll, your goaltender's going to have to win a game for you somewhere along the way or steal one for you. ... He can't have a bad night."

McElhinney made his second straight start in place of Petr Mrazek, a move made by Brind'Amour to shake things up after the Hurricanes lost the first two games of the series in Boston by a combined 11-4 score.

That this game was scoreless after 20 minutes was a testament to McElhinney, who came up with several early gems - including robbing Marchand from close range with his glove about 7 1/2 minutes in.

NOTES: D John Moore replaced Chara in the defensive pairing with Connor Clifton. ... With fourth-line forward Chris Wagner back in Boston having his injured right arm examined, C Noel Acciari slid into the lineup for the Bruins for the first time in the series. ... Both teams' general managers - Don Waddell of the Hurricanes, and Don Sweeney of the Bruins - were announced as finalists for the league's GM of the year award. ... Carolina LW Jordan Martinook (lower body) missed a second straight game.

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Posted (edited)

I did not expect that kind of beat down. 

Tuuka Rask was sensational.  Definitely the MVP of this series.

 

I didn't think the Bruins were decent 5 v 5 in any game until they got the 'canes in the box, then their suddenly lethal power play gave the whole team a lift.  The exception being game 4 I thought the whole team played as well as they can last night. 

 

I really thought the B's 3rd pair would get exposed by the speed of the 'canes and that never happened. Between their skating and Rask's ability to play the puck behind the net they weren't just okay they were quite good.

 

I don't like the Broons- but damn if they don't look like the chalk of the remaining teams.

 

Edited by mojo1917

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As excited as I am about this...not looking past either possible opponent.

 

The Blues are not there by accident, and the sharks offense scares the **** out of me....

 

The bruins must take advantage of the well deserved rest and get as healthy as possible, cause the will need to be 100% to win this thing.

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Bruins spoil Blues' party with rout in Game 3; take 2-1 series lead

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ST. LOUIS — It was mayhem on Market Street, the main artery in the Arch City was closed for the biggest hockey party this town had ever seen.

A stage was erected in the shadow of the Gateway to the West. Thousands of people packed in for a concert on a sultry Saturday evening to sing along to “Gloria,” the soundtrack of these Stanley Cup playoffs.

Amid a St. Louis Cardinals series with the Chicago Cubs in this baseball-obsessed city, certified man rocket and “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm watched fans stream away from Busch Stadium to go see the Blues.

“I think that’s probably the first time in the history of the city that that’s happened,” said Hamm, a devoted Blues fan. “It’s a big deal. I mean, it’s a really big deal.”

The Stanley Cup Final in St. Louis was an event. Hamm was joined by fellow St. Louisians such as “The Office” actress Jenna Fischer, Olympic athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee, plus NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and former St. Louis Rams Chris Long and Isaac Bruce at Game 3.

Forty-nine years of pent-up frustration, nearly 18,000 days of waiting, built to a crescendo during pre-game introductions inside an electric Enterprise Center.

The Blues came marching in … and promptly laid an egg at centre ice.

The Boston Bruins hit all the right notes and clobbered the Blues from puck drop, chasing Jordan Binnington in the second period en route to a 7-2 drubbing on Saturday night. They said they could hear the crowd getting revved up in their dressing room before the game, only serving as fuel to ruin the party.

“It’s been a long time for them,” Charlie Coyle said. “The crowd was awesome right at the start. It was a really cool atmosphere. When we play our game, and come out that way, I think it quieted them down a little bit.”

“It’s loud in every building in the playoffs. When you get on the ice, the [fans] mean nothing,” Brad Marchand said, “The big thing is just we've been through so much together this year, that we just rely on one another in uncomfortable situations.”

The Blues, who are 5-6 at home in these playoffs, will now need three “Glorias” in the final four games of the season to deliver the city’s first Stanley Cup. Because the biggest beatdown in a Cup Final since Pittsburgh smacked Nashville, 6-0, in 2017, put the Bruins in the driver’s seat in this best-of-seven series.

The Blues didn’t stand a chance in Game 3.

“It was just a night where everything went our way,” Torey Krug said after his four-point night.

The rookie sensation Binnington was yanked for the first time in his NHL career after allowing five goals on 19 shots. He played every minute of these playoffs before being mercifully pulled by coach Craig Berube.

Binnington was so frustrated that at one point in the second period, he bumped Tuukka Rask on the way to the bench during a television timeout. It wasn't the first time he's lost his cool on hockey's biggest stage, looking visibly distraught in Game 1 after each of the first two goals he allowed.

“It was a 4-0 game. I wasn’t happy. It’s how I reacted,” Binnington explained. “It’s a long series, right? It’s something I did, and we’re moving on.”

The shell-shocked 18,789 in attendance saluted Binnington with a solid ovation on his way off the ice. He’ll get another crack at the Bruins in Game 4 on Monday night; Binnington is 12-2-0 this season with a .937 save percentage following a loss.

“My confidence level's really high,” Berube said. “He had seen enough, so we just wanted to pull him and get him ready for the next game.”

Saturday wasn’t so much about what Binnington didn’t do. Really, the story of the Bruins’ Game 3 goal bonanza followed the same script of these Stanley Cup playoffs. They checked a lot of the same boxes on Saturday that got them there:

✔ Power play. The postseason’s most lethal unit was a perfect four-for-four on just four shots. They’ve now potted 22 playoff power play goals, the fifth-most all-time in one playoff run, and are operating at a ridiculous 35 per cent clip.

Krug credited Cassidy, a power play savant, for making the adjustments before Game 3.

“Bruce does a great job of giving us cues that if ‘this player does this, these are the opportunities that we’re going to have to score a goal’,” Krug said. “Without giving [the cues] away, we’re trying to take advantage of it now. His knowledge of the game, his x’s-and-o’s is second-to-none, something I’ve never seen.”

✔ Perfection Line. The top guns came alive, as they have in the second half of every series this spring. Even though Patrice Bergeron, Marchand and David Pastrnakcollected their points on the man-advantage, they were a force from puck drop.

“I still think we haven’t played our best,” Pastrnak said. “That's our focus in this group, and we've got a lot of good players, so we know we can even elevate more.”

✔ Secondary scoring. Trade deadline pick-ups Coyle and Marcus Johanssoncontinued their magical march in the playoffs, with Johansson finding Coyle through a seam for a beautiful one-timer snipe that made it 2-0. It was the third time Johansson accounted for the primary assist on Coyle’s eight playoff markers.

✔ Rask up to the task. Rask was nearly perfect through two periods, faltering slightly in the second half as the Bruins slowed and sat back. He is now 6-1 these playoffs following a loss with a .939 save percentage.

By the end of the night, with Binnington sitting in a ballcap on the bench, the energy had been sucked out of St. Louis. Empty seats dotted the lower bowl early in the third period. Nearly five decades of pent-up frustration was met with exasperation.

The once-rowdy crowd could barely muster a half-hearted rendition of their third period tradition “Country Roads,” and there wasn’t even a prayer for “Gloria” in anyone’s mind.

Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli

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