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Rask Paces B's to Eastern Conference Final

Netminder (39 saves) brilliant again in Boston's 3-0, series-clinching victory over Columbus

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins /

COLUMBUS, Ohio - As he met with the media on Monday morning, Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella told reporters that he believed his team had "dented" Tuukka Rask with a three-goal third period in Game 5.

Tortorella explained that he thought the offensive flurry late in that contest was key in a setting a tone for Game 6 as the Blue Jackets attempted to keep their season alive.

And Columbus tried building on that approach from the outset on Monday night by going hard to the net in what was a clear attempt to rattle Rask's cage. With 6:46 gone in the first period, Blue Jackets forward Pierre-Luc Dubois barreled into Rask, knocking him to the ice on a play that resulted in a goalie interference penalty.

Despite the attempts to knock Rask off his game, Boston's ace netminder was anything but dented. The Finnish backstop was undeterred, turning away 39 shots for his sixth career postseason shutout to pace the Bruins to a 3-0 victory and send them to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2013.

"Outstanding again," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "You need your goalie to deliver, I think that's stating the obvious. He did. He keeps us in the game. He looks real composed. They've been bumping him. They hit him hard tonight going to the net, they got called for it. But he kept his composure.

"I think there was some gamesmanship that most teams go through to try to get a goalie off his game and he was able to play through that as well. I thought he did a real nice job for us."

Video: BOS@CBJ, Gm6: Rask records shutout in Game 6 win

Rask did not pay much attention to the game within the game, though he did push back a bit midway through the second period after Columbus captain Nick Foligno went hard to the net and ended up in the crease. With Foligno draped on top of him, Rask delivered a couple of body shots with his blocker and eventually ended up nose to nose with Foligno as a scrum ensued.

"I was just trying to have fun with Foligno there a couple times," said Rask, who made 17 saves in the second period alone. "As the series went on, they kind of felt that they maybe needed to do that, try to get in my head a little bit. It's funny when that happens because you kind of know that you have the better of them at that point. If they start running you, you've got to defend yourself and take some shots."

Cassidy believes that the composure - mixed with a bit of an edge - Rask showed in the face of chaos was the true measure of his dominating performance during the second-round victory.

"He didn't take a penalty, he didn't lose his composure, he might have pushed back at the odd time to let people know that he's gonna hold his ground. But at the end of the day, he seemed to settle in right way," said Cassidy. "I like when he has a little fire. I've told you that all along. There's a fine line there and I think if he plays with some of that fire in his belly, the guys can feed off that."

Rask was without much doubt the Bruins best player during the six-game series with the Blue Jackets, outdueling Columbus goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, particularly over the final three games - all Boston victories - during which the 32-year-old stopped 111 of the 115 shots he faced, good for a .965 save percentage and 1.33 goals against average.

For the series, Rask allowed just 11 goals on 212 shots for a 1.83 GAA and .948 save percentage.

"He was definitely our most consistent player throughout the whole series," said Cassidy. "We had other guys give us good performances from game to game, but he was there every night. He certainly deserves whatever accolades come to him. Proud of him."

Video: Rask speaks after Game 6 shutout

Rask's shutout was the sixth of his postseason career, tying him with Tiny Thompson and Tim Thomas for second in Bruins history, just behind Gerry Cheevers' record of eight. He also became just the third netminder in B's history to record two series-clinching shutouts in his career, joining Cheevers (Game 6 of 1972 Stanley Cup Final and Game 4 of 1977 semifinal) and Thomas (Game 7 of 2011 Eastern Conference Final and Game 7 of 2011 SCF).

"Tuukka played an unbelievable game and was our best player again," said Charlie McAvoy. "I can't say enough good things…what a performance by him."

The highlight of Rask's Game 6 performance might have come early in the third period. With Boston clinging to a 1-0 lead, and the focus once again on the goaltenders at both ends of the ice, the Bruins headed to the kill after Joakim Nordstrom was whistled for slashing Dubois at 4:48 of the final frame.

Rask made four saves on the kill, including his best of the night when he stoned Matt Duchene, who was all alone at the left circle. Duchene tried to go five-hole, but Rask was there to swiftly - and effortlessly - swat it away with his stick.

"I was comfortable even with the one-goal lead, just the way he's going," said Cassidy. "You're not sitting there trying to nurse it by any means. I wasn't worried about Tuukka. You could tell this whole playoff he's been in a real good place, consistent, just solid and composed. He comes to the bench, there's no issues, any little thing he doesn't seem to be bothered.

"He seems to be in his own zone right now where he's just gonna go out and stop the puck, not worry about all the banging in the crease or if a goal is disallowed, all that stuff. He's done a terrific job for us in that regard. Hopefully it continues."

Video: BOS@CBJ, Gm6: Rask stops Duchene's bid on power play

The strong penalty kill clearly gave the Bruins a boost, as just 2:10 later Marcus Johansson took Charlie Coyle's drop pass and trickled a wrister from the slot through Bobrovsky to give Boston a critical insurance tally with 12:02 remaining.

"I guess you're kind of trying to do that, play hard defense and then turn that into offense," said Rask. "Obviously when the clock runs down, the other team is down a goal or two they have to take chances. You defend hard and try to get an odd-man rush or something…that's what we did."

As brilliantly as Rask played throughout the series, he did not believe he had to do "anything spectacular," pointing to the work of his teammates and the all-around effort they put forth to get to this point.

"It's a team sport and we play for each other. That's helped me a lot," said Rask. "We battled for each other all year. I don't think it's any different now. I try to make the save, guys try to block a shot, make that right play, offensively, defensively. Everyone is just playing for each other.

"If you're playing this time of year, you're doing something right. You've done something great as a team. Super happy that we're in this position. Keep the train rolling."

Video: Cassidy reacts to series win

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