June 10, 2019 / 4:20 AM / 17 days ago

Rask, Bruins dominate Blues to force Game 7

EditorsNote: Update 3: fixes to “through Jan. 2” in next-to-last graf

June 9, 2019; St. Louis, MO, USA; Fans of the St. Louis Blues outside before game six of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS — Nearly 19,000 fans filled every nook and cranny of Enterprise Center on Sunday night, ready to help the St. Louis Blues throw their biggest party in franchise history.

Tuukka Rask and his Boston Bruins teammates played the role of party-poopers perfectly.

Rask stopped 28 shots, and Boston broke open a one-goal game with four third-period goals, posting a 5-1 win in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final to even the series at three games each.

That forces a Game 7 in Boston on Wednesday night, the latest twist in a fascinating series that has mostly favored road teams. This was the fourth victory for the road team in the finals and was the Bruins’ second win this postseason when facing elimination in front of an opposing audience.

Rask had a lot to do with this one. He made 12 saves on four St. Louis power plays, including four after Sean Kuraly put Boston a man down less than three minutes into the game with a delay-of-game infraction.

“He made some tremendous saves, especially early on to keep us in the game,” Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said.

Boston then got its power play cranked up after a two-game hiatus. Following a 4-for-4 performance on four shots in a 7-2 rout during Game 3, the Bruins couldn’t figure out the Blues’ penalty kills in Games 4 and 5.

In the first period Sunday, Boston cashed in on a two-man advantage after Brayden Schenn and Ryan O’Reilly took minors 62 seconds apart. David Pastrnak fed Brad Marchand in the left circle, and Marchand beat Jordan Binnington with a one-timer at 8:40.

That goal might not have quieted the raucous crowd much, but it definitely settled the Bruins down.

“It got us going in the right direction,” Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said. “After that, I thought we played a good, smart hockey game. We managed pucks, tried to limit odd-man rushes and protect the front of the net.”

St. Louis created a spate of good chances during its first three power plays, but Rask stood tall. The one time the Blues appeared to beat him, Alex Pietrangelo’s rebound chance in the second period clanged off the left goalpost.

That was the continuation of a series-long trend: the Bruins’ superiority in special teams. While Boston is 7 of 21 with the man advantage in the finals, St. Louis is 1 of 18, its only marker coming in Game 3.

“We had 12 shots on the power play tonight,” Blues interim coach Craig Berube said, “but we have to bury a couple. We had some good looks, but can it be better? Does it need to be better? Yes.”

Boston used a couple of surprising goals from bit players to pull away. Defenseman Brandon Carlo’s soft shot from the point took a tricky bounce off the ice and snuck under Binnington at 2:31 of the third period for a 2-0 advantage.

Karson Kuhlman, playing his first game since April 30, upped the margin to 3-0 when he finished a rush off David Krejci’s pass at 10:15, wiring a wrister from the right circle past Binnington for his first career postseason marker.

Ryan O’Reilly drew St. Louis within a pair when he beat Rask on a rebound at 12:01. The goal was confirmed via replay review after it was originally ruled the puck didn’t cross the goal line.

However, Pastrnak quashed any thoughts of a dramatic rally at 14:06 with his ninth playoff goal, and Zdeno Chara tacked on an empty-netter at 17:41.

Slideshow (142 Images)

Binnington saved 27 of 31 shots for the Blues, who owned the worst record in the NHL through Jan. 2 before Berube molded them into Western Conference champions.

“If you had asked me in February whether I’d take a Game 7 on the road for the Cup, I’d say yes,” Berube said. “We’ve won twice up there this series.”

—By Bucky Dent, Field Level Media

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