By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj
A trip to the Stanley Cup Finals is on the line for the Boston Bruins tonight in Game Four of their Eastern Conference Finals series against the Carolina Hurricanes. Due in part to the terrific play of Tuukka Rask, the Bruins possess a 3-0 series lead on Carolina and look to close the show here tonight.
Arena: PNC Arena – Raleigh, North Carolina, USA
Home: Carolina Hurricanes (8-6)
Away: Boston Bruins: (11-5)
Last Game Result: Bruins won 2-1
Bruins Gameday Lineup:
Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara is not in the lineup for Thursday’s game with an undisclosed injury. Matt Grzelcyk moves up to replace him alongside Charlie McAvoy and John Moore comes into the lineup beside Connor Clifton on the third pairing. Tuukka Rask will be, without previous doubt, the starting goalie for Boston. For the second consecutive game, Curtis McElhinney will start for the Canes.
Starting off right away, just over a minute into the game, Matt Grzelcyk gets his stick caught in the skates of a Hurricane forward, resulting in a two-minute minor. Boston’s penalty-kill, even without Chara, did a great job preventing zone entries and even got a shorthanded bid with a Joakim Nordstrom partial breakaway that gets stopped by McElhinney. Penalty killed off successfully.
Early on, Carolina’s shot attempts came often from the point. The Bruins were being fearless on a lot of these shots, getting their bodies in front of the puck and making sure Rask didn’t have to see anything. Good start defensively by the Black and Gold here.
Just around 12 minutes to go, the Bruins get the best chance of the game so far. Brad Marchand’s missed pass goes right to Charlie McAvoy who blasts one to the net. The shot creates a large rebound that goes to Bergeron and then to Marchand again. Marchand’s quick wrister gets gloved by an extended McElhinney.
In a tightly-contested opening frame, the Hurricanes go the penalty box for the first time in Game Four, a slashing call against Nino Niederreiter on Brad Marchand. Marchand may have helped the call by dropping his stick, but there was a clear slash on his hands. Regardless, Boston off to power-play for the first time tonight.
Boston had some really great chances to bury one on the power-play. The best chance came with less than a minute remaining on the man-advantage. Somehow, Patrice Bergeron is wide open in the slot with the puck. Instead of shooting, he fakes the shot and feeds it to Pastrnak who tried to pass him the puck right back but McElhinney’s diving stop prevents it from entering a gaping net.
Charlie Coyle gets whistled down on a weak “interference” call, ending the power-play and forcing the game to briefly go to 4-on-4, followed by a shorter man-advantage for the Canes. Thanks to some solid saves from none other than Tuukka Rask, Boston kills off that call and we return to 5-on-5.
Boston’s top line of Bergeron, Marchand, and Pastrnak get many opportunities to strike in the opening frame but all too often make an extra, unnecessary pass and the play is dissolved from there. More shots on net and the Bruins could very well be up 2-0 here. Nonetheless, we are scoreless after the first twenty minutes of action.
Shots on Goal: BOS: 10 CAR: 13
Five minutes into the middle period, the Hurricanes appear to be controlling the play more than Boston. The B’s failed to get the puck out of the zone on numerous attempts and the Canes returned with shots off the rush. However, the Hurricanes get caught with six skaters on the ice at the same time and now face a minor penalty for too-many-men.
On Boston’s second man-advantage of the night, Brad Marchand races into the zone with his head up the entire time, tossing a lead pass for a reaching David Pastrnak and the Bruins get on the board first. McElhinney was convinced that Marchand was going to rip the shot and that expectancy resulted in him being slightly out of position for Pastrnak’s deflection.
Carolina’s edge that they possessed early in the frame was not as evident after the Bruins tally. Boston has had a lot more zone entries and scoring threats on the ice compared to the Canes. The frustration of the Hurricanes may be rising too, as captain Justin Williams shows frustration on a close icing call that he lost. His frustration levels have been on display all series long and he has continually said that he needs to be better. That seems to still be a work in progress.
Late in the period, Carolina has the best zone control of the game by far, passing the puck around the offensive zone but not a single shot made it’s way to Tuukka Rask. The fourth line of Nordstrom, Kuraly and Acciari were on the ice for a really long time and Carolina had their best chance to equal the score. Torey Krug was on the ice for a remarkable 2:57 and Carlo for 2:48.
Greg McKegg takes a hard rush into the zone with the exhausted Krug still on the ice, but the mobile defenceman pokes the puck before it gets to Rask. The cut from McKegg leads to him colliding with Rask in the head and he gets penalized with goaltender interference. On the ensuing power-play, Pastrnak and Bergeron exchange a beautiful give-and-go passing play to strike again, 2-0 Boston. That goal is the 17th goal on the man-advantage throughout the 2018-19 postseason for the B’s.
With that, the second period ends and the Boston Bruins are twenty minutes away from the Stanley Cup Finals.
Shots on Goal: BOS: 19 CAR: 18 (8-4 BOS in 2nd)
Score: 2-0 Bruins – Goals: Pastrnak (7) PPG Assists: Marchand (11), Krug (11); Bergeron (7) PPG Assist: Pastrnak (7)
It is quite clear that with a two-goal lead in a possible elimination game for Boston, they are willing to play a defensive final regulation period to close this thing out. Nearly eight minutes in, neither team had a single shot on net. Carolina has taken numerous shots, although, all of their shots are coming from the point and are getting blocked or deflected wide by the bodies in front of Rask.
The best defensive forward in the National Hockey League, Patrice Bergeron creates a scramble in front of McElhinney off of a brilliant forechecking effort, stealing it from the Hurricanes defender and tossing the puck into the slot where Pastrnak hung around. The shot didn’t reach the Carolina goalie, but definitely causes frustration for Carolina.
Just past the halfway mark of the period, the Bruins know that another goal could spell the end of Carolina. With that said, the Bruins stay ferocious on the forecheck, forcing a Carolina turnover in their defensive zone, passing the puck directly to David Pastrnak who makes a clean pass over to Patrice Bergeron for his second of the game, extending Boston’s lead to three.
Justin Williams was visibly upset at the goal, as he felt that the Bruins had iced the puck just seconds before the turnover. However, the replay shows that the puck bounced off of Pastrnak’s stick after he crossed the red line meaning no icing would have been called. In addition, the linesman was right by Pastrnak and he waived off the icing. Just another case of Williams showing frustration after the goal.
Carolina’s Head Coach, Rod Brind’Amour pulled McElhinney with over five minutes left to go and following too many whistles for many different reasons, Brad Marchand races down the ice to bury the empty-net goal, 4-0 Bruins. The Boston Bruins advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since 2013.
Shots on Goal: BOS: 23 CAR: 24
Final Score: 4-2 Bruins
Max’s Three Stars
1st Star: BOS G Tuukka Rask – 21 Saves, Shutout
2nd Star: BOS F Patrice Bergeron – 2 Goals, 1 Assist, 6 Shots, 16:42 TOI
3rd Star: BOS F David Pastrnak – 1 Goal, 2 Assists, 2 Shots
For the 20th time in franchise history, the Boston Bruins advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Bruins are Eastern Conference Champions.