The Boston Bruins are returning to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2013 after defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 4-0 to complete the Eastern Conference Final sweep Thursday night at PNC Arena.
Following a scoreless first period, the second period was bookended by Bruins power-play goals. David Pastrnak first gave Boston a 1-0 lead at the 15:14 mark then assisted Patrice Bergeron's sixth power-play goal of these Stanley Cup Playoffs with 1:26 left before the second intermission.
The power play has been the defining thread throughout this series, as the Hurricanes' inability to execute all postseason not only followed them into the Eastern Conference Final but was further exploited by Boston's overwhelming efficiency.
Bergeron added another goal early in the third period, again assisted by Pastrnak, before assisting Brad Marchand on an empty-netter in garbage time to properly bury the Hurricanes.
Entering Thursday night, the Bruins top line of Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak combined for just six points all series. The Bruins compensated with 12 different scorers to wade through until Game 4 when the top unit accounted for all four goals and combined for eight total points.
For Games 3 and 4, Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind'Amour replaced goaltender Petr Mrazek, who had given up 11 goals through two games, with Curtis McElhinney. That change proved fruitless because Carolina couldn't crack Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask, who saved 109 of 114 shots (95.6 percent) throughout the series.
All of that combined, plus a consistently productive fourth line, has the Bruins in line to capture a third championship for the city as the Boston Red Sox won the 2018 World Series in October and the New England Patriots won Super Bowl LIII in February.
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The Bruins are headed to the Stanley Cup Finals after a commanding 4-game sweep over the Hurricanes. Boston has a team in the championship round for the 23rd time since January 2000 (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, WNBA, MLS). The only city with more in that span is Los Angeles (24). https://t.co/EzCvYAhzGx
Boston is the only team remaining in the playoffs to have ever won the Stanley Cup and are in the Final for the third time since 2011, which ties them with the Chicago Blackhawks for most appearances this decade, according to NHL.com's Dan Rosen.
That experience just adds another intimidating layer to a team riding a seven-game winning streak toward Lord Stanley.
The Bruins will now await the results of the Western Conference Final between the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks, who currently lead the series 2-1, to see who will stand in the way of their first Cup since 2011.