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Rask brilliant for Bruins in Game 6 clincher against Blue Jackets

Gets first shutout of playoffs to help Boston advance to Eastern Conference Final

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

COLUMBUS -- By the end of the game, as the zero on the scoreboard went into the history books and the Boston Bruins advanced and the handshake line commenced, there was no denying what had become abundantly clear throughout Game 6 and throughout this Eastern Conference Second Round series: Tuukka Rask had dragged the Bruins to the Eastern Conference Final.

He made 39 saves against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday -- helped by four that banged off iron, admittedly -- for his first shutout of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, 3-0, at Nationwide Arena. 

He was brilliant, composed, sure-handed. He was what everyone had said about the Blue Jackets' Sergei Bobrovsky earlier in the series, praise that rarely extends to the beleaguered Boston goalie.  

 

[RELATED: Bruins-Blue Jackets Game 6 recap]

 

It did on Monday. 

"You need your goalie to deliver and I think that's stating the obvious: He did," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said. 

Rask was everything they needed, especially in the second period when the Blue Jackets outshot the Bruins 17-5, and throughout the night, as he made 27 saves at even strength, 11 on the penalty kill, and yet another one shorthanded. 

Not that he was interested in taking credit. 

Video: Rask posts a shutout in Game 6 as the Bruins advance

Rask, eternally Zen about his place in the hearts and minds of the fickle Boston fans, shrugged off most of the praise, most of the questions about how much he contributed to the team making it this far -- and potentially further. 

"We battled for each other all year," Rask said. "I try to make that save, guys try to block a shot, make that right play defensively, offensively. Everybody's just playing for each other. Great team effort, again."

The Bruins took a 1-0 lead at 12:13 of the second period on a one-timer by David Krejci after Jake DeBrusk hit a post. 

Marcus Johansson made it 2-0 at 8:58 of the third on a shot that popped over Bobrovsky, and David Backes scored his first of the playoffs at 10:39 for a 3-0 lead.

But the Bruins hadn't really been worried, not when they had the one-goal lead. Not when they hadn't yet extended it.

They knew who they had in goal, a player who has a 2.02 goals-against-average and a .938 save percentage through 13 games and two rounds of the playoffs. 

"You could tell this whole playoff he's been in a real good place," Cassidy said. "Been consistent, just solid and composed. Comes to the bench, there's no issues between periods, any little thing. He doesn't seem to be bothered by anything. He really seems to be in his own zone right now, where he's just going to go out and stop the puck, not worry about all of the banging in the crease or if a goal is disallowed, allowed, any of that stuff. He's done a terrific job for us in that regard. Hopefully it continues."

For the Bruins, the focus coming into the game had been to close out the series, to prevent the Blue Jackets from coming back to Boston for Game 7 on Wednesday, as coach John Tortorella guaranteed after Game 5. They had already fought through a draining seven-game series against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, while their opponent rested after a sweep, and didn't want to do it again, knowing the Carolina Hurricanes swept the New York Islanders and were idle, waiting for the winner of Bruins-Blue Jackets.

Video: BOS@CBJ, Gm 6: Rask on advancing to ECF

That winner is now determined. 

"It was talked about, that we have to play our best game of the series," Cassidy said. "I'm not saying we did or didn't, but that was the mindset we had to have."

And they accomplished what they were looking to do, reaching the Eastern Conference Final, setting up the matchup with the Hurricanes, extending their season to that point for the first time since 2013. They did enough offensively, and they watched as their goalie did the rest. 

"If you're playing this time of year, you're doing something right," Rask said. "You've built something great as a team. We're super happy that we're in the position. Trying to keep the train rolling."

Trying to keep him rolling too. As composed as he was throughout, Rask wasn't entirely unruffled on the ice. Midway through the second period, with the Bruins on the penalty kill after a Brad Marchand slashing penalty, there was a scrum at the Boston net. Rask got in a few jabs on Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno, saying later, "You've got to defend yourself, take some shots. Gave Foligno a couple body shots there, for sure."

Rask gave up one goal in Game 4 in Columbus, and allowed three goals in Game 5, two of which were difficult bounces, including one off defenseman Matt Grzelcyk.

And none in Game 6.

"He made the big saves when they needed him to," Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones said. "I thought he got better as the series went on. He stood in there tall."

While Bobrovsky's athleticism might have left him with the highlight reel moments, the oohs and aahs and how-did-he-do-that's, it was Rask who outdueled him in the battle of Vezina-winning goalies. It was Rask who outplayed Bobrovsky. And it is Rask's team that is moving on. 

"He certainly deserves whatever accolades come to him," said Cassidy, who has known Rask for a decade, since they spent 2008-09 with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League. "I'm proud of him."

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