The Boston Bruins got some timely goals in their tight Eastern Conference semifinal series with Columbus, and when the goals weren’t coming, Tuukka Rask stood tall.
The Finn turned in his best playoff performance so far in the 3-0 win over the Blue Jackets in Game 6 that clinched the series and propelled the Bruins into the conference final against Carolina.
The Blue Jackets played hard and forechecked well enough to win every game, but were zero for 10 on power-play chances in the final three games of the series, all won by Boston. Much of that was due to Rask, who had 39 saves in Monday’s game and did his part to shut down four Columbus power plays.
“We are halfway to our goal,” said forward David Backes, who scored Boston’s final goal in the third period. “You need to relish the plateaus along the way. We are certainly at one of those to be among the final four teams. We’ve had to sacrifice to win some games against some really good teams.
“Now we can enjoy this for a day then have a happy flight home (Tuesday), then get ready for Carolina, who is well rested and ready for us,” he said.
David Krejci and Marcus Johansson also scored for the Bruins in Game 6. David Pastrnak led the Bruins with four goals in the six games against Columbus.
“It was tight until the end,” Krejci said. “We learned from it and closed it out tonight the way we wanted to.”
Boston won the first game of the series in overtime, then fell to the Blue Jackets in OT in Game 2 and lost Game 3 by a goal before ripping off the final three victories. The Bruins are advancing to the Eastern Conference final for the first time since the 2012-13 season, when they lost in the Stanley Cup final.
Carolina swept the New York Islanders in their second-round series.
“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.”
Boston coach Bruce Sullivan said Carolina is a bit of mix between hard-hitting Columbus and quickness of Toronto, which the Bruins beat in the opening round.
“I think they’re a little bit of both,” Cassidy said. “Young team. (Defensmen) get up the ice. Flip goaltenders and didn’t miss a beat. But we’ll look at it a little closer starting (Tuesday). Obviously they’ve made it this far, they’re a very good hockey club. I don’t think you get this far by accident. So we’ll have our hands full. But we’re looking forward to it.”