RALEIGH, N.C. - For the third time in the last nine years and the 20th time in team history, the Boston Bruins are headed to the Stanley Cup Final.
Patrice Bergeron notched two goals and an assist, David Pastrnak picked up a goal and two helpers, and Tuukka Rask made 24 saves for another shutout as the Bruins closed out a sweep of the Eastern Conference Final on Thursday night with a 4-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
"It's been a special group since Day 1," said Bergeron. "You need everybody to be a part of it and contribute. It's been that way, that's the only way you can really advance. There's a lot of work in front of us, but it's a special feeling tonight."
Video: BOS@CAR, Gm4: Bruins awarded Prince of Wales Trophy
Boston struck with two goals in the second period - both on the power play - to open up a 2-0 lead, as Pastrnak (off a brilliant feed from Brad Marchand) and Bergeron (off a give-and-god with Pastrnak) notched the sixth and seventh power-play goals of the series for the Bruins.
Overall, Boston finished a whopping 7 for 15 on the man advantage across the four games and is now 17 for 50 (34%) during the postseason, by far the best mark in the NHL. The Bruins' 17 power-play goals rank fourth in team history (24 in 1991; 19 in 1988; and 18 in 1972).
After a quiet Game 3, the Bruins' top line of Bergeron, Marchand (goal, assist), and Pastrnak combined for eight points in the series-clinching victory.
"The last few games, we knew we could be a little bit better than what we've been," said Marchand. "With the situation we've been in, being up 3-0, everyone in the room wanted to be at their best."
Video: Bruins complete sweep, advance to Stanley Cup Final
The Bruins' 20 Stanley Cup Final appearances rank fourth in league history behind Montreal (32), Detroit (24), and Toronto (21). Bergeron, Marchand, Rask, David Krejci, and Zdeno Chara will all be making their third trips to the Final with the Bruins.
"As you get older, you appreciate it even more and you realize how hard it is to get to this point and advance," said Bergeron. "You've got to be thankful and stay in the moment…we basically kind of grew up together, we've been around for so long.
"It's been a fun ride to be a part of these guys as the core group, the leaders that have been through a lot, ups and downs."
With their four-game sweep of the Hurricanes, the Bruins have now won seven straight games this postseason, the third-longest stretch in franchise history, behind 1970 (10 games) and 1972 (nine).
"It means a lot," said Rask. "It's so difficult to advance in the playoffs, let alone make it to the Final…we need to really enjoy this, but realize we have a lot of work to do. The past few years, we've really built something special. We have a great group of guys. Really happy to be a part of it."
Video: Bruins core group talks ECF victory
Rask continued his torrid stretch, making 24 saves for his second shutout of the postseason - both of which have come in clinching games (he also kept Columbus off the board in Game 6 of the second round). With the blanking of Carolina, Rask surpassed Gerry Cheevers and Tim Thomas (two each) for the most series-clinching shutouts in Bruins history.
For the series, Rask stopped 109 of the 114 shots he faced. He ranks first among NHL goalies this postseason in goals against average (1.84) and save percentage (.942).
"Tuukka's been very consistent," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "If you're gonna get on a roll, your goaltender's gonna have to be there for you…he can't have a bad night if you're gonna string together that many [wins]."
Video: BOS@CAR, Gm4: Rask secures series sweep with shutout
Rask now also ranks second (with Glenn Hall) in NHL history with two series-clinching shutouts in the Conference Finals/League semifinals, the other coming in Game 4 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Final against Pittsburgh. Jacques Plante has the record with three such shutouts.
Boston's ace netminder is now 8-0 in his career in the Conference Finals (the Bruins also swept the Penguins in 2013), making him the seventh goalie in NHL history with a win in eight-plus appearances in the Conference Finals/League Semifinals.
Bergeron came through with yet another massive performance in an elimination game, notching two goals, including one on the power play in the second period. He now has six power-play goals this postseason, which ranks second to Cam Neely's nine in 1991.
With his two-goal night in Game 4, Bergeron also surpassed Peter McNab for fifth on the Bruins' all-time postseason goals list with 39. The pivot also has 99 playoff points, one shy of tying Rick Middleton and Johnny Bucyk for fourth in franchise history.
Video: BOS@CAR, Gm4: Bergeron finishes give-and-go for PPG
Big Zee Sits
The Bruins were without Chara for their Game 4 victory, as Boston's captain sat out with an undisclosed injury. Chara, who did not practice on Wednesday afternoon, was missing from warmups and the club later announced that he was day-to-day.
Chara had not missed a postseason contest since Game 2 of the first round in 2011, a span of 98 games.
Following the Bruins' win, Cassidy said he did not think the injury was serious and believes Chara will be ready for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.
"We found out this morning that he wasn't gonna be able to go," said Cassidy. "This time off will help him. I believe he'll be ready to go in Game 1, whenever that is. We don't think it's serious, but I've said that before about some of our guys and found out later…but that's the update…I believe he'll be ready for the next round."
Video: Cassidy reacts to the Bruins advanced past ECF
Taking a Break
With Boston's sweep and San Jose and St. Louis still battling it out in the Western Conference Final (Game 4 is set for Friday night with the Sharks up 2-1), the start of the Stanley Cup Final is at least a week away. No official dates have been released, but regardless the Bruins will have some much-needed time off to catch their breath.
"That's a long stretch for us, from typically what we've had," said Cassidy, whose team has been playing essentially every other day for the last five weeks. "We'll sit down, probably make a call or two to someone who's been down this road, see how they handled it.
"We do have the Black Aces [a group of Providence Bruins], do we scrimmage one day to keep the edge? But even then, if you scrimmage are guys really gonna be physical against one another? They're not.
"I don't have a great answer right now, that's why we'll sit down internally and see what the best fit is and ask the guys in the room."
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