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Stanley Cup Final

Kuraly comes up big again for Bruins in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

Forward scores another clutch playoff goal to break tie in third period

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- The moments seem to find Sean Kuraly. Or, perhaps, he finds the moments, isolates them, slows them, and turns chances into goals and goals into highlights and highlights into wins. It is astonishing, really, how often the fourth-line forward, tasked mostly with defensive responsibilities, with penalty killing, with controlling an opponent, finds himself leaping into the glass for another game-winning goal.

He did it yet again on Monday, a moment that will live forever for him and the Boston Bruins. This time it came at 5:21 of the third period to put the Bruins ahead of the St. Louis Blues, complete their comeback from down two goals, and push them to a 4-2 win in Game 1 of the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Final. 

Game 2 is at Boston on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

This, after all, is a player with seven goals in 30 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a player with 14 in 154 regular-season games.

 

[RELATED: Krug sets tone for Bruins in Stanley Cup Final opener | Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage]

 

But perhaps it was only what should continue to be expected after he introduced himself to the playoffs back in 2017 with two goals in his third career postseason game, scoring the game-tying goal in the third period before winning it in the second overtime in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Ottawa Senators with Boston facing elimination. Those goals were his first and second in the NHL. 

He hasn't stopped since. 

There was the game-winning goal in the third period at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Chicago Blackhawks. There was the Game 7 goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round that extended the lead to two. There was the third-period goal in Game 4 of the second round against his hometown Columbus Blue Jackets that also gave Boston a two-goal lead on the way to a win that tied the series.

There was the goal on Monday, to go along with the pass that Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton knocked in for the first goal against the Blues at 2:16 of the second period to cut it to 2-1. 

"He's been doing it all year," Bruins center Patrice Bergeron said. "That line got us going, obviously, and got us the game winner. We're a team that's relied on everybody all year. Tonight was another good example."

Video: STL@BOS, Gm1: Kuraly puts Bruins ahead in 3rd

But it wasn't just the offense Kuraly provided that made the difference.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy had started the game with Bergeron's line matched up against the Blues' top line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko. One minute into the second period, it wasn't going as planned. Schenn had a goal. Tarasenko had a goal. 

Cassidy made a move.

"It wasn't going our way," Cassidy said. "It was that simple. I thought [Bergeron's] line had a tough time finding their game tonight. The other guys were a little bit ahead of them in terms of their puck possession. We've used Kuraly's line all year against good lines and we decided to go that route. It worked out for us."

Not only was the Schenn line contained for the rest of the game, so were the rest of the Blues. They were outshot 18-3 in the second period and 30-12 over the final 40 minutes. Boston's fourth line -- Joakim Nordstrom, Kuraly, and Noel Acciari -- neutralized St. Louis' best offensive threat, all while managing to produce offense of their own. 

"I think it shows the confidence that our coach has in us to be out there and do that job and know what our job is when we're out against a line like that," Kuraly said. "It's to make it difficult for them to create any offense, and they're a great line, so it's tough. 

"But the expectation from us was just play them hard and play them honest and make them earn every inch. If they beat us with their skill, which will definitely happen at times, then so be it. But we're not going to let them beat us with something silly that was a mistake by us."

Video: Kuraly on the excitement of playing Game 1 in Boston

And they're happy to help out with the offense, if given the chance. 

On his goal, Kuraly managed to knock Acciari's pass from his skate blade to his stick, all while battling with Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson in front of the St. Louis net before beating Jordan Binnington. 

The goal put the Bruins ahead 3-2, a lead they would not relinquish. 

Not that any of his teammates were particularly surprised, given his track record.

"His speed and his puck protection skills are pretty impressive, to be honest," Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said. "He can hold onto the puck. There's probably not many third, fourth liners in the League that have as much puck possession in the O-zone as him."

Video: STL@BOS, Gm1: Kuraly on comeback win in Game 1

And for Kuraly, it added yet another entry in a ledger that is starting to become littered with big moments, with big celebrations, with big goals.

"If you get contributions from your back end, if you get contributions from your bottom-six forwards, you're going to win a lot of hockey games and you're going to have a chance to go far in the playoffs," Krug said. "That's what we've had up to this point, and that's what we had tonight. That's why we won the game."

It wasn't the first time. If history holds, it won't be the last for Kuraly.

"It's unbelievable," Bruins forward Marcus Johansson said. "I think everyone has said this, one of the strengths of this team is that we have four lines that can produce at any given time on any given night. What better time to do it than tonight?"

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