Boston netminder Tuukka Rask collected the shutout, but had to share the spotlight with teammate Dan Paille as the Bruins blanked the Chicago Blackhawks 2-0 on Monday to take control of the Stanley Cup Final.
Rask has been center stage throughout the Final, while Paille has gone from role player to leading man after scoring the overtime winner in Game 2 and finding the Chicago net again on Monday as Boston grabbed a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“We’re playing the best hockey of the season right now,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters. “That’s what you’ve got to do to give yourself a chance to win a Stanley Cup. We’ve got to continue playing our best hockey and at the same time we’ve got to continue to try to fix the little things that we feel can be better in our game. We’re not a satisfied group.”
While there is a lot more ice hockey still to be played before the Stanley Cup is hoisted, history says Bruins fans can at least start considering a parade.
The team winning Game 3 after splitting the opening two contests of a Final have gone on to win the Stanley Cup 21 of 25 times.
“Three” has been the Bruins’ lucky number this post-season. They are a perfect 4-0 in Game 3s, while the Blackhawks have gone 0-4.
Back on home ice after splitting the opening two contests in Chicago, Rask was brilliant again, stopping all 28 shots he faced to notch his third shutout in his past seven games.
The Finn’s dominating performances have put him among the early favorites for the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Stanley Cup playoffs’ Most Valuable Player.
“He’s been focused since day one of the playoffs,” Julien said. “You watch him on off days, you watch him, he’s quiet, focused, calm. Right now all his energy is put towards his game, how he needs to get his rest, relax. When the game starts, he’s a focused individual.”
Paille had two goals in Boston’s first 17 playoff contests of the post-season and has doubled his contribution over the past two.
He opened the scoring two minutes into the second on a nice individual effort, before Bergeron converted a power-play chance taking a cross-ice feed from Jaromir Jagr and hammering the puck past Corey Crawford just as the Bruins’ two-man advantage was ending.
The Blackhawks’ frustration boiled over in the final seconds as tempers flared and players traded punches.
Chicago’s lack of scoring was not helped by the absence of Marian Hossa, who was ruled out just prior to the opening face-off with an unspecified injury. Tied with Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane for the team lead in playoff scoring with 15 points, Hossa took part in the pre-game skate, but was not on the bench for the opening face-off.
“We’re hopeful he’ll be ready for the next game,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “It was a game-time decision after the warm-up there. It’s a low-chance game. It’s a low-chance series. You have to manufacture the second [chance], kind of ugly goals, tip screens, deflections.”