The Boston Bruins reached the Stanley Cup Final for the third time since 2011 with arguably their best performance of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on Thursday.
Boston 4, Carolina 0 in Game 4.
Boston 4, Carolina 0 in the series.
[WATCH: Bruins vs. Hurricanes Game 4 highlights | Complete series coverage]
"We played from the first minute, from the drop of the puck, until the last minute," Bruins center David Krejci said. "All four lines were doing the things we talk about. Obviously our top line was huge tonight, but all the other lines, the Ds, [Tuukka Rask] again. It was a great effort."
The best of the Bruins came out in a big way despite the absence of their biggest player, captain Zdeno Chara, who missed the game because of an undisclosed injury, ending a streak of 98 consecutive playoff games for the 6-foot-9, 42-year-old defenseman.
Video: Bruins' top line scores big in series sweep vs. Canes
The top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak had eight points, including all four goals, two from Bergeron. Pastrnak and Bergeron each had three points. The three combined for six points in the first three games.
Boston coach Bruce Cassidy said he could sense the line was going to have a big night because of how it struggled in the previous three games. A tutorial session with assistants Jay Pandolfo and Joe Sacco prior to practice Wednesday got them back in sync.
"When they're a little out of sorts in the neutral zone, not making plays to each other, not supporting the puck it turns into almost three individuals as opposed to a line," Cassidy said. "Yesterday, got it all out there, and today I had a feeling. They generally bounce back."
Pastrnak's goal and one of Bergeron's came on the power play, which was 2-for-3 on Thursday and 7-for-15 in the series. It is 17-for-50 (34.0 percent) in the playoffs.
Carolina went 0-for-2 on the power play in Game 4 and 0-for-13 after Sebastian Aho's goal three seconds into a penalty at 3:42 of the first period in Game 1.
Boston was plus-6 in special teams in the series.
"With the situation, being up 3-0, everyone in the room wanted to be at their best," Marchand said, "and I think everyone brought their best tonight."
Including Rask, who made 24 mostly simple saves for his second shutout in three series-clinching wins this postseason. He also had 39 saves in a 3-0 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 6 of the second round.
Rask allowed five goals on 114 shots in the series to finish with a .956 save percentage and 1.25 goals-against average. He is 12-5 with a .942 save percentage and 1.84 GAA in the playoffs.
"He's unbelievable," defenseman Matt Grzelcyk said. "He's so in the zone right now you almost don't even want to talk to him. He's keeping us in games, saving games. He's just playing unbelievable hockey, something I've never seen. We're going to need it going forward."
Here's the Bruins' bottom line: They have won seven games in a row by a combined 28-9.
Video: Discussing the impressive moments this series for BOS
Seriously, does it even matter who they play in the Cup Final, the St. Louis Blues or the San Jose Sharks, the teams battling it out in the Western Conference Final? (San Jose leads the best-of-7 series 2-1 entering Game 4 on Friday.)
Probably, but that'll be a story for another day, when we know who gets the next crack at trying to slow down this machine from New England.
"I think it's about relying on everyone, and everyone kind of finding their role and knowing that that role is just as important as anyone else's," Bergeron said. "That's what you need in the playoffs, everyone to be a part of it and contribute, and it's been that way. That's the only way you can really advance."
The Hurricanes were no match. The Bruins wouldn't give them any room in the middle of the ice in this series, no space to make plays, to try to generate anything off the rush, which was their game plan.
It was as if the Hurricanes were playing the equivalent of a four-corners offense in basketball, all on the points and in the corners, nothing on the inside because the Bruins owned that real estate.
In Game 4, Carolina had nearly as many shots (24) as they had shots blocked (23). The majority of the shots that got blocked were from long range, with Boston not giving an inch on the inside.
"I don't recall a lot of slot chances," Cassidy said. "I don't know if the analytics would back that up. I assume they would. Those are the most dangerous ones, so we kind of kept them outside."
It was easily the Bruins' best defensive showing of their 17 playoff games and arguably their most complete performance overall, with Cassidy comparing it to their Game 6 win against Columbus and their 6-2 victory in Game 2 against Carolina.
But considering what was at stake, the chance to sweep, to advance to the Cup Final, Boston really couldn't have been better.
"You want to enjoy it," Cassidy said, "but our guys understand there are still four more steps to take."
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