Tuukka Rask posted his seventh career playoff shutout, and the Boston 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.
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 Brad 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 it in 2011 and losing to Chicago two years later.
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.
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.
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.
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.
McElhinney made his second straight start in place of Petr Mrazek, a move made by coach Rod 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 minutes in.