Tuukka Rask spoiled the party.
They huffed and puffed, but they couldn’t blow a goal past a stingy Rask. The Boston Bruins goalie wasn’t about to allow the Blues to have their championship moment just yet. He was spot on like he has been on so many occasions in the playoffs this spring.
The 32-year-old Rask already has a Stanley Cup ring. But eight years ago, when the Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games, the Finn was the backup to Tim Thomas. He wants a championship of his own, and he’s now one victory away after a 5-1 win against the Blues on Sunday in St. Louis to force Game 7 back in Boston on Wednesday.
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Rask made 28 saves to earn his 15th victory of the 2019 playoffs in his brilliant post-season run and No. 50 of his career. He now will enter the series finale with an excellent .638 save percentage.
The Bruins goalkeeper was particularly good when his club was forced to kill off four penalties. The Blues only have one power-play goal in this series. Rask is a good reason why.
Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo fired a backhand off the post. Boston defenceman Charlie McAvoy batted the rebound into his goalie’s back, and Rask somehow trapped the puck long enough for a whistle.
The Bruins escaped the second period with that one-goal lead. Defenceman Brandon Carlo drifted a long knuckleball-like shot in to make it 2-0 early in the third period and with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game young Karson Kuhlman, 23, made it 3-0.
Boston head coach Bruce Cassidy continued to push the right buttons when it came to his lineup. He went with 11 forwards and seven defencemen in Game 5 at home to make sure the Bruins were protected in case captain Zdeno Chara’s broken jaw gave him difficulty.
With Chara in good stead, Cassidy went with the conventional 12-6 forward/defenceman mix for Game 6. But instead of reinserting veteran forward David Backes on the second line, Cassidy decided to employ the speedy Kuhlman, the former University of Minnesota-Duluth captain.
The only goal to beat Rask was a shot from Blues centre Ryan O’Reilly that needed video review to determine that the puck did cross the goal line.
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But Boston first-line right wing David Pastrnak scored to make it 4-1 two minutes later, and Chara added an empty netter after a Blues fan fired a tall boy of Budweiser across the ice.
The victory pushed the Bruins to 3-0 when facing elimination. They were down 3-2 in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs but rallied to win the next two games to advance.
Now, thanks mostly to Rask, they have another shot to win their second crown in eight years at home. When the Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks in seven games in 2011, they won Game 6 at home and then beat the Canucks in Vancouver to take the Stanley Cup.
Now they have an opportunity to win their first championship at home since 1970 when the legendary Bobby Orr scored that iconic overtime winning goal flying through the air against, yep, the St. Louis Blues.