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Stanley Cup Final

Rask at best to help Bruins stay alive in Game 6 of Stanley Cup Final

Makes 28 saves against Blues, can win championship at home Wednesday

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Blues were ready for a Stanley Cup party. Tuukka Rask had other plans.

The goalie elevated his play again with the Boston Bruins' season on the line, making 28 saves in a 5-1 victory in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at Enterprise Center on Sunday. The series will be decided at Boston on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

Rask improved to 5-0 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Bruins either have faced elimination or had a chance to finish a series. In those five wins, he made 145 saves on 149 shots for a .973 save percentage.

 

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"I've felt good all along in the playoffs," Rask said. "Sometimes you play better than others. Sometimes you're seeing the puck better just because your defense is playing better. There's chances from the outside instead of rebounds from the slot. There's a lot of moving parts there. So, I felt good all along, and it's not (that) I feel any different. It's a team effort."

There were a lot of storylines for the Bruins on Sunday. Veteran center Patrice Bergeron settled them down and inspired them with his pregame speech. After struggling to produce for much of the Cup Final, top-line players Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak each had a goal and an assist. Pastrnak's goal and Marchand's assist represented the first point for each 5-on-5 in the Final.

Video: BOS@STL, Gm6: Rask makes 28 saves to backstop Bruins

But none of that would have mattered if Rask hadn't held down the fort in the first two periods when the Blues were amped up for the chance to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in their 51-season history. Rask made 12 of his 19 saves over the first two periods when the Blues were on the power play, which went 0-for-4.

"He's our best player," defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. "He has been all playoffs or all season. We know that when he plays like that to the best of his ability and we do our jobs in front of him -- we've got to help him out -- that he's going to be there. He's going to be that stone."

Rask leads the playoffs with a 1.93 goals-against average and .938 save percentage (minimum five games played) and already was one of the favorites to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP. He pretty much locked up the award -- if Boston wins the Stanley Cup -- with his performance Sunday.

Rask prevented the Blues from taking the early lead with three saves during Bruins center Sean Kuraly's delay of game penalty, which was called at 2:42 of the first period. That included a right-pad stop on Brayden Schenn's rebound shot from in front at 3:51.

The Bruins converted on a 5-on-3 power play with Pastrnak setting up Marchand for a one-timer from the bottom of the right face-off circle that gave them a 1-0 lead at 8:40.

Video: BOS@STL, Gm6: Marchand goes top shelf for PPG

"They played tight, we got some chances on the power play," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "They got one on the power play, on the 5-on-3 there, and after that it's a tight game, it's back and forth, we get some zone time, but we have to get more pucks to the net and a little bit more traffic. Maybe get one of those old dirty ones."

The Blues had five shots during Marchand's tripping penalty, which came at 9:11 of the second, and Rask stopped them all. Rask also got some help from McAvoy when Pietrangelo's backhand hit the left post at 9:55 and hit is back before McAvoy kept the puck from going in by swatting it away from the goal line.

The puck then hit Rask in the back again before rolling down it and dropping harmlessly to the left of Boston's net.

"I think [McAvoy] hit it with his stick and I kind of heard it," Rask said. "I didn't know where it was and I figured it might be somewhere behind me, so I just tried to corral it with my hand behind my back, and then it stuck in my pants and then it fell somewhere. But I think [McAvoy] made a great play to keep it out of the net."

Video: McAvoy, Rask make crazy save as Bruins force Game 7

The Bruins gave Rask some breathing room in the third period with goals from defenseman Brandon Carlo (2:31) and forward Karson Kuhlman (10:15) that made it 3-0 before Ryan O'Reilly ended his shutout at 12:01. Rask almost stopped that one too, sliding to his right in time to get his right pad on O'Reilly's shot from the right circle.

But video review determined the puck crossed the goal line before it hit Rask's pad, and St. Louis was suddenly within 3-1. Pastrnak ended the Blues' hopes for a comeback by scoring with 5:54 remaining, and everyone began to look forward to Game 7.

It will be the first Game 7 in a Cup Final since the Bruins came back from trailing 3-2 in the series to defeat the Vancouver Canucks in 2011. They won 5-2 in Game 6 at home before a 4-0 victory at Vancouver with Tim Thomas making 37 saves.

Rask was the Bruins backup that night. Now, he's put them in position to win the Cup again and has a chance to cement his legend in Boston with one more win.

"Good for Tuukka," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. "He's allowed us an opportunity to play in a Game 7. I think the whole hockey world loves a Game 7, so it should be a great night in Boston, and may the best team win."

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