The combination of goalie Tuukka Rask and the line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand carried the Boston Bruins into the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday.
Rask made 24 saves for his second straight series-clinching shutout in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Boston's top line combined for eight points (four goals, four assists) in a 4-0 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final at PNC Arena.
The Bruins advanced to the Cup Final for 20th time since entering the NHL in 1924, joining the Montreal Canadiens (32), Detroit Red Wings (24) and Toronto Maple Leafs (21) as teams that have qualified for the Final at least 20 times. Ten of Boston's 20 trips to the Final have come in the NHL expansion era (since 1967-68), second in that span behind Montreal's 11.
Boston swept a best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series for the 15th time in its history and the sixth time in a conference final/NHL semifinal. The four-game victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final was Boston's last sweep in any round before this season.
The Bruins have won seven straight playoff games since losing Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Second Round to the Columbus Blue Jackets. It's Boston's third-longest postseason winning streak; they won 10 in a row in 1970 and nine straight in 1972.
Rask keeps rolling for Bruins
Rask's shutout was the third of his NHL career in a series-clinching game; in addition to shutting out the Blue Jackets in Game 6 of the second round and the Hurricanes in Game 4, he also shut out the Penguins in Game 4 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Final. Rask established a Bruins record for most series-clinching shutouts, eclipsing the mark of two set by Gerry Cheevers (Game 6, 1972 Cup Final; Game 4, 1977 Semifinals), and matched by Tim Thomas (Game 7, 2011 Eastern Conference Final; Game 7, 2011 Cup Final).
He's the third goalie in NHL history to record multiple series-clinching shutouts in a conference final/NHL Semifinal, joining Jacques Plante (three) and Glenn Hall (two). Rask is 8-0 in eight career games in the conference final; he went 4-0 against Pittsburgh in 2013. Rask is the seventh goalie in NHL history to win at least eight consecutive games in the conference finals or NHL Semifinals.
Rask extended his personal playoff winning streak to seven games, the second-longest in Bruins history behind a 10-0 run by Cheevers in 1970.
Video: BOS@CAR, Gm4: Rask secures series sweep with shutout
Top line sparkles for Boston
Bergeron (two goals, one assist) scored his NHL-leading sixth power-play goal in this postseason. That's the second-most by a Bruins player in one playoff season; Cam Neely scored nine power-play goals in 1991, matching the NHL record set by Mike Bossy in 1981. Boston leads the playoffs with 17 power-play goals.
Bergeron has 99 points (39 goals, 60 assists) in 129 playoff games; his next point will make him the sixth player in Boston history to have 100 points in the postseason. Teammate David Krejci, who had an assist Thursday, reached the milestone in Game 3.
Pastrnak scored the 15th playoff goal of his career, the second-most by a Bruins player before turning 23 years old; Barry Pederson scored 21. Pastrnak, who will turn 23 on May 25, has 147 goals (NHL regular-season and playoffs combined), the highest such total by a Boston player before turning 23. Pederson is next at 141.
The line of Bergeron (eight goals), Pastrnak (seven) and Marchand (seven) has combined for 22 of Boston's 57 goals (38.6 percent) in its 17 playoff games this season, including six game-winners.
Video: BOS@CAR, Gm4: Bergeron finishes give-and-go for PPG
Sharks try to take command in Western Conference Final
The San Jose Sharks can move within one win of a date with the Bruins when they play the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS).
San Jose leads the best-of-7 series 2-1 after a 5-4 overtime win in Game 3 on Wednesday. That was the 36th one-goal game in this season's playoffs, eight more than all of last season.
The Sharks lead 2-1 in a best-of-7 series for the 16th time since entering the NHL in 1991; they are 11-4 in the 15 previous instances. San Jose leads 2-1 in a conference final for the second time; the Sharks led St. Louis 2-1 in the 2016 Western Conference Final and won the series in six games.
San Jose center Logan Couture leads the playoffs in goals (14) and points (20). He has scored at least one goal in each of the first three games in this series.
Video: SJS@STL, Gm3: Couture ties game with milestone goal
San Jose's Erik Karlsson (two goals, 13 assists) and Brent Burns (five goals, 10 assists) share the scoring lead among defensemen with 15 points each. It's the first time in 20 years that two defensemen from the same team have had at least 15 points in the same postseason; the last instance occurred in 1999, when Jason Woolley and Alexei Zhitnik each had 15 points (four goals, 11 assists each) for the Buffalo Sabres.
Two members of the Blues can set St. Louis records in Game 4. Goalie Jordan Binnington, who has nine wins, needs one to set the record for wins in one playoff season; he's tied with Brian Elliott (2016) and Roman Turek (2001). Alex Pietrangelo, who has 12 points (two goals, 12 assists) needs one point for the most in a playoff season by a defenseman; he's tied with Joe Micheletti (1981), Jeff Brown (1990, 1991) and Al MacInnis (1999).
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