ST. LOUIS — With the Boston Bruins facing elimination in a hostile environment, Tuukka Rask and Brad Marchand again stepped up. The Stanley Cup Final is heading to Game 7 because two of Boston’s biggest stars love the biggest moments.
Rask made 28 saves and Marchand had a goal and an assist as the Bruins beat the St. Louis Blues, 5-1, on Sunday night to tie the series at 3-3.
On Wednesday night, Boston will host Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history. Said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, “The whole hockey world loves a Game 7, so it should be a great night in Boston, and may the best team win.”
David Pastrnak had one of Boston’s four third-period goals and an assist, helping the Bruins force the 17th Game 7 in Stanley Cup history. Brandon Carlo, Karson Kuhlman and Zdeno Chara also scored in the third period.
“We’re fighting for our lives, obviously,” Marchand said. “When you play desperate, I think you see everyone’s best game.”
Ryan O’Reilly scored in the third period for St. Louis, which is looking for the franchise’s first Stanley Cup title in its 51st season. Rookie Jordan Binnington finished with 27 stops.
“We have to move on, get ready for the next one,” O’Reilly said. “We’re confident. We’re a great road team. Maybe that’s our story. Maybe we have to get it done on the road.”
Backed by an electric Enterprise Center crowd that included actors Jon Hamm and Jenna Fischer and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, wearing a No. 49 Blues jersey in honor of suspended forward Ivan Barbashev, St. Louis looked a step off for most of the game. Prime scoring opportunities were derailed by misplaced passes or ever-so-slight timing issues.
Of course, Rask can have that effect on a team. And whenever the Blues threatened, the 6-3 Finnish star was there. “He’s our best player,” Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. “He just steps up when it matters and we have all the faith in the world in him . . . He’s our rock.”
Rask was at his best while Boston killed off four power plays, dropping St. Louis to 1-for-18 with the man advantage in the series. He smothered a big slap shot by Colton Parayko with Chara in the penalty box near the end of the first period and made a fancy glove stop on an even-strength try by Brayden Schenn in the second.
He got some help after Marchand was whistled for tripping Alex Pietrangelo midway through the second. With the Blues applying heavy pressure in search of the tying goal, Pietrangelo had a backhand go off the left post and Rask’s back before McAvoy knocked the puck out of the way out of midair. “We weathered the storm pretty good,” Rask said.
Boston used a five-on-three advantage to jump in front. With Schenn and O’Reilly in the box, Marchand beat Binnington with a sharp-angled shot from the right circle at 8:40 of the first period. It was Marchand’s first goal since he got an empty-netter in Boston’s 4-2 victory in Game 1. The Bruins improved to 25-1 when the pesky veteran scores in the postseason.
“We knew that again the start was going to be key and that they were going to give us a push early and to manage that and play well and take care of details and obviously capitalize on our chances,” Boston center Patrice Bergeron said.
Marchand and company then put it away in the third.
Jake DeBrusk won a board battle with Pietrangelo to set up Carlo’s bouncing shot that went off Binnington’s arm for the defenseman’s second career playoff goal. Then Kuhlman, a rookie who was in the lineup in place of former Blues captain David Backes, made it 3-0 with a well-placed wrist shot at 10:15.
After O’Reilly supplied some hope for St. Louis when he was awarded a goal after a review by the officials, Marchand found Pastrnak in front and the winger put a slick move on Binnington to make it 4-1 on 14:06. Chara, playing with a broken jaw, added an empty-netter with 2:19 left.
The crowd chanted “Let’s Go Blues!” in the final moments, hoping to give St. Louis a boost for its trip to Boston.
“Listen, if you told me four months ago we were going to be in the Finals in Game 7, I think I’d take it,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “We’ve been a good road team. We’ve won twice up there in this series, so we’re a confident group.”