BOSTON — The Bruins are two wins from their second Stanley Cup in the last three years.
And just as they had done to the potent Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference final (two goals against in four games), Claude Julien’s team is locking down the opposition offense.
Tuukka Rask pitched his third shutout in the last seven games and Game 2 overtime hero Daniel Paille and Patrice Bergeron scored second-period goals to power Boston to a 2-0 Game 3 win over Chicago for a 2-1 series lead over the stifled Blackhawks Monday night.
“I think it’s going to give you even more motivation knowing you’re only two games away, but that being said, you want to stay calm and confident,” said Tyler Seguin, who had an assist in the latest win. “Stay focused. I think we’re going to enjoy this one tonight and tomorrow is a new day.”
After allowing four goals in the Game 1 triple overtime loss, Rask and his buddies have yielded one in the last two games and held onto home ice advantage with the series resuming at TD Garden Wednesday night.
If you’re into history, consider this: Teams winning Game 3 of a 1-1 finals have gone on to win 21 of the 25 times it has happened.
More history? If the Bruins finish this, they will give the city of Boston eight titles in the past 12 years in the four major sports.
The Blackhawks, the Presidents’ Trophy winner as the top team in the league in the regular season were missing an injured Marian Hossa.
Rask was up to the task, stopping 28 shots as the Bruins scored their seventh straight home playoff victory. Rask was beaten by Bryan Bickell with 45 seconds left but the puck struck the inside of the post and Rask finished off his second straight home shutout.
“They had shots, but most of them came from the outside,” said Rask, the current frontrunner for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. “We eliminated a lot of those rebound opportunities. I think that’s something every team likes to do, and we succeeded today.”
The score didn’t reflect Boston’s dominance. The Bruins outshot the Hawks 35-28, won the faceoff war 40-16 (Bergeron was 24-4), had 31 official hits to 25 by the visitors and blocked 17 shots (six by Dennis Seidenberg) to seven by Chicago.
The Bruins home winning streak started when Boston came from three goals down in the third period and eliminated Toronto in overtime in Game 7 of the first round. Boston is 11-2 overall starting with that comeback.
Paille scored his fourth goal of the playoffs, while Bergeron beat Corey Crawford (33 saves) on the power play with his seventh.
Bergeron was again immense. In addition to his 24-4 faceoff dominance and the goal, he had seven shots on goal and blocked a shot.
“I’ve never seen a guy that hungry in the defensive zone,” said linemate Jaromir Jagr, who set up Bergeron’s goal.
Chicago’s Dave Bolland failed to control a puck leading to the first goal and also took three penalties, one leading to the second.
Boston killed all five Chicago power plays (the last one just the final 11.9 seconds) and have now killed 27 straight over seven games, 11 in this series.
“We know they’ve got some great players on that other team,” Julien said. “Our penalty kill has to be at its best.”
His counterpart, Joel Quenneville, said, “They box you out. They got big bodies. They blocked shots. I think we had some chances to get some pucks through the net, we didn’t.”
Speculation was that Hossa, who has 15 points (tied for the team lead), was injured during warmups, but the team knew all day he was questionable. After the game, he was termed day-to-day by Quenneville.
Ahead 1-0, the Bruins wasted most of their first power play, but Niklas Hjalmarsson tripped Paille and the home team had an 11-second two-man advantage. Bolland, who failed to corral the puck from Paille before the first goal, was in the box for the first one and was still getting back into the 5-on-4 when Jagr hit Bergeron with a precision pass across the goalmouth.
That got the fans into a “We Want The Cup” chant.
“We’re not a satisfied group,” Julien said. “Whether it’s through wins or through games, we try and I guess better ourselves in certain areas. That’s what we got to continue to do.”
Said Chicago’s Patrick Sharp: “I’m confident with the players we have on this team. We’ve had no problem scoring goals, ever really, since I’ve been here. We’re in the Stanley Cup Final against a team that deserves to be here, is here because of the way they’ve played defensively and check away from the puck. So, it’s tough to score out there, but we’ve got to find a way. We know what’s on the line.”
GAME NOTES: Warm temperatures outside led to poor ice conditions. … Zdeno Chara, who assisted on the first goal, needed stitches above the eye after a warmups collision with teammate Milan Lucic. … Chara started a mini-brawl by pummeling Bickell with 11.9 seconds left. … As expected, the Hawks dressed Viktor Stalberg and scratched Brandon Bollig, whose giveaway led to Paille’s winner in Game 2. Former Boston College star Ben Smith replaced Hossa. … Jagr still hasn’t scored in the playoffs but notched his eighth assist. … Hockey Night in Canada personality (and former Bruins coach) Don Cherry, asked if he thought Boston’s Brad Marchand is a “pest,” said, “The funny thing is, they call him a ‘pest’ but he’s not a pest, he’s a hockey player that’s a little dirty. Maybe (a lot) dirty, but he’s good. He’s my type of guy. He reminds me of Kenny Linseman, the Rat. Let’s start calling him ‘Rat Junior.’” Marchand, when heard what Cherry said, responded, “Yeah, it’s definitely a big compliment.” … Boston’s Gregory Campbell, out with a broken right leg, rejoined his teammates, complete with a black (team color) cast. “He’s such a big part of our team and we wouldn’t be where we are right now if he wasn’t here, so it’s great to be around him again,” Marchand said. … Keeping with their postseason honoring victims of the Boston Marathon bombings, the Bruins welcomed Rob Rogers, Jenn Rogers and Jennifer Lemmerman, siblings of Sean Collier, the MIT police officer killed by the terrorists, as the pregame Banner captains.