The Boston Bruins defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in double-overtime Wednesday and are now one victory away from the Stanley Cup Final.
This was a clash of elite goaltending, as both netminders were on the top of their games.
Tuukka Rask picked up the win, saving 53 of the 54 shots he faced. Although unable to secure the win, Tomas Vokoun was nothing short of sensational, preventing 38 of 40 from passing through and routinely stopping fast-break chances.
In the end, it was Patrice Bergeron that found the back of the net at the 15:19 mark of the second overtime to earn Boston the victory.
Bergeron and David Krejci finished with the goals for the Bruins, while Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand and Jaromir Jagr came up with assists. For Pittsburgh, Chris Kunitz scored off of assists from Paul Martin and Pascal Dupuis.
The Bruins got started early, as Krejci found the back of the net just 1:42 into the first period.
It doesn't get much better than that.
The goal was yet another example of Krejci's dramatic postseason turnaround. After scoring 10 goals during the entire regular season, Krejci has nine during the playoffs. That's more than any other player.
That's what you call coming up in the clutch.
For the rest of the first period, it was a battle of the goaltenders, as Rask and Vokoun made brilliant stops at every turn. Even as Pittsburgh won more than 60 percent of the faceoffs, however, it simply couldn't find the back of the net.
And then Chris Kunitz struck gold.
Coming off of feeds from Martin and Dupuis, Kunitz landed the equalizer by chipping it into the high right end of the net. Rask slid over in a quality manner, but it was too little, too late from Boston's goaltender.
Suddenly, it was 1-1 and life returned to the Penguins off a gorgeous feed from Martin and a key faceoff victory by Sidney Crosby.
A momentous play for a Penguins squad that has looked lifeless during the first two games—a play that accounted for Pittsburgh's second goal in three games.
The Penguins failed to score a second goal and take the lead, but they did hold Boston scoreless and put 15 shots on net in the second period. Both teams successfully killed penalties and each received strong performances from their goaltenders through two periods of play.
With 46 combined shots on goal through two, it was nothing short of stunning to see the score tied at 1-1.
The Penguins dominated the third, getting 14 shots on goal to just four from the Bruins. Unfortunately for the Pittsburgh crew, Rask was brilliant, stopping all 14 attempts.
Rask also got lucky, as a no-look backhand from Crosby hit the post—the only shot on goal Crosby had through the first three periods.
Suddenly, the naysayers may see how valuable Crosby is. The shots may come from other Penguins, but they simply aren't going through when The Kid isn't aggressive.
Rask made sure of it, and the score was knotted 1-1 at the end of regulation.
In the first overtime, Boston had numerous chances to win, but Vokoun made extraordinary saves and Nathan Horton found the post. On the opposite end, Rask continued his magnificent play in net, stopping great looks from Kunitz and company.
Neither goaltender budged.
A performance for the ages by both men.
After 20 minutes of extra play, neither team found the back of the net, and we were thus sent to a second overtime. This wasn't just an extraordinary display of goaltending, but something that Penguins and Bruins fans are far too familiar with. Overtime has a tendency to come up in their battles. (Pittsburgh swept their 1992 series.)
In double overtime, it was more of the same, as both goaltenders protected the net with extraordinary poise. In the waning minutes, however, the Bruins broke into the open ice off passes from Jagr and Marchand.
With a flick of his wrist, Bergeron sent Boston to a 3-0 series lead.
The upset is nearly complete.
If they weren't before, the Penguins are now stuck with their backs against the wall, as they are one loss away from elimination. As for the Bruins, they'll be hoping and praying that 2013 is unlike 2010, when they blew a 3-0 series lead against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The question is: Can the Penguins follow in the footsteps of their Pennsylvania rivals? Or have the Bruins learned their lesson?
We're soon to find out.
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