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Kuraly Has Flare for the Dramatic

Forward (goal, assist) leads strong effort from bottom six as Bruins advance to second round with Game 7 win over Toronto

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins /

BOSTON - Sean Kuraly knows that goal scoring is not necessarily his forte.

"They don't usually go in for me," he quipped.

The third-year forward has suited up for 154 regular-season games in the NHL and has 14 goals to his name - including a career-high of eight during the 2018-19 campaign - or one every 11 contests.

Generally, Kuraly is more focused on delivering his patented blend of speed, energy, and grit to set the tone for Boston's pack of more prolific scorers like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Jake DeBrusk.

But when it comes to the big moments, Kuraly's offensive abilities seems to be as potent as anybody's - which he once again proved on Tuesday night.

The 26-year-old Ohio native delivered a massive third-period insurance tally, as well as an assist, in the Bruins' 5-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 at TD Garden, as Boston advanced to face his hometown Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Kuraly now has five goals in 19 career postseason games - or one every four contests.

"He's a valuable playoff guy," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "The last couple of years he's scored some big goals for us in the playoffs."

Video: TOR@BOS, Gm7: Kuraly pots one top shelf on the rush

And that's why Kuraly's presence was so missed over the series' first four games. It is not often that a team laments so strongly the absence of a fourth-liner, but the Miami of Ohio alum's style is a perfect fit for the postseason, especially when battling a skilled and speedy team like the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"We talked about him missing the start of the series. And you talk about a depth guy and think how much you can miss him, but we use him a lot of different ways for us," said Cassidy, who has deployed Kuraly at center since his return in Game 5 from a fractured right hand that sidelined him for nearly a month.

Kuraly's Game 7 tally was the highlight of what was, overall, a stellar evening for Boston's bottom six, as Joakim Nordstrom and trade deadline acquisitions Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle also found the back of the net.

"You rely on everyone in the playoffs and that's how teams are advancing. I thought tonight was a perfect example," said Bergeron, who added an empty-netter with 1 second remaining. "Everyone's got a job to do…I thought they were in their zone for most of the night creating some momentum for us and got things rolling basically."

Cassidy had been quite pleased with the work of Kuraly and linemates Nordstrom and Noel Acciari in Boston's season-saving Game 6 victory on Sunday afternoon in Toronto and opted to keep the trio together for the win-or-go-home Game 7, instead of re-inserting the likes of David Backes and Chris Wagner back into the lineup.

The decision was a sound one. Boston's fourth line was dominant in the Game 7 victory, providing a relentless, pounding performance from the outset.

"That's why they're in the lineup. I think we've got a lot of good choices," said Cassidy. "Very difficult to tell a couple of the guys who didn't play they weren't going to…we talked about it at the start of the series that we felt we needed a certain type of lineup to beat Toronto, and we finally found it late in the series. I thought Game 6 and 7 we skated well. A guy like Nordstrom is a good part of that, [Karson] Kuhlman, Kuraly obviously."

Video: Kuraly notches crucial goal in Game 7 win

The Kuraly-Nordstrom-Acciari triumvirate was the catalyst in the Bruins' victory, combining for the game's opening goal with 5:31 remaining in the first period. Acciari knocked down a Toronto clearing attempt with his chest at the blue line and got the puck to Kuraly, who had it tapped away.

But Matt Grzelcyk pinched down from the blue line to keep the puck in and delivered a backhand feed to Nordstrom at the left post. Nordstrom (who also added an assist) ripped a wrister that trickled between Toronto goalie Frederick Andersen's glove and left pad to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.

"Of course it's big," said Nordstrom, whose goal was his second of the series. "You want to break the ice first and play with the lead and try to extend it and I thought we did a really good job…I think everyone throughout the lineup stepped up and had a really good game. I thought we played our best game of the series tonight."

The trio was at it again early in the third with the Bruins holding onto a one-goal lead and Toronto pushing hard for the equalizer and quickly gaining momentum.

It started with some strong defensive work in the Bruins' end to clear the puck into the neutral zone. Kuraly eventually took a tap pass from Acciari and surged through two Toronto defenders and into the Maple Leafs zone, before unleashing a wrister from the top of the left circle that sailed past Andersen to extend the Bruins' lead to 3-1 at the 3:40 mark of the third.

"I think anytime you can contribute offensively it feels great," said Kuraly, whose first two career goals - including the double-overtime winner - came in Boston's Game 5 win over Ottawa in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"A lot of times we contribute in different ways, but to be able to do that was a good feeling and something we hope to continue…that was a good one and a big one."

Kuraly had three game-winning goals during the regular season, including the Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium. And while his tally on Tuesday does not go into the books as a winner, it is certainly his most important of the year.

"I saw it all along. I was like, 'Man he's got it.' That was an amazing shot," said Bergeron. "That was a great play by him at a clutch time. He's been doing that many times over the last few years."

Video: TOR@BOS, Gm7: Nordstrom sneaks shot past Andersen

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