BOSTON – The Boston Bruins and goalie Tuukka Rask were less than 80 seconds away from a seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Then it all fell apart.
“It’s shocking when you think you have everything under control,” Rask said.
Bryan Bickell beat him with 1:16 left to tie the game, Dave Bolland did it again with 59 seconds to go and the Chicago Blackhawks pulled off a stunning comeback for a 3-2 win on Monday and their second Stanley Cup championship in four years.
The Bruins’ bid for their second title in three years ended in a flurry that left them wondering what went wrong.
Rask had been brilliant for most of the playoffs. And he was outstanding again for most of Monday’s game. Then he got little help from his teammates as he let in two costly goals.
Bickell scored when he got behind forward Milan Lucic and tapped in a pass across the slot from Chicago captain Jonathan Toews.
Then Bolland put the game-winner past Rask when he converted a shot deflected by Michael Frolik that went off the left post.
“It was a shot from the point. Deflection, rebound, goal. A lot of plays happen like that,” Rask said.
He and Chicago goalie Corey Crawford entered the game with identical 1.83 goals against averages in the playoffs. In the clincher, Crawford had 23 saves and Rask 28.
“He was great all series,” Crawford said. “A lot of the games took a life of their own. Sometimes we had shootouts, sometimes we had tight games, but he was there throughout. You see what it took to beat him tonight, a late flurry like that or we wouldn’t be standing here.”
The Bruins had an even more amazing comeback in the first round of the playoffs than the Blackhawks did on Monday. Trailing 4-1 with less than 11 minutes left in the seventh game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, they forced overtime then won 5-4 on Patrice Bergeron’s goal.
But not this time. Not against a team that set an NHL record by getting at least one point in each of its first 24 games, going 21-0-4.
Rask was spectacular in the Eastern Conference finals against high-powered Pittsburgh. He held Sidney Crosby and company to two goals in a four-game sweep that sent the Bruins to the finals.
He even had better statistics than Tim Thomas, the goalie he backed up when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011. Thomas was MVP of that year’s playoffs then decided to take this season off.
“I’m really proud,” Rask said. “A lot of people didn’t expect us to go this far. We shocked the hockey world against Pittsburgh.”
The loss was especially painful because the Bruins wanted to provide good news for a city where the Boston Marathon bombing and its aftermath resulted in the deaths of four people.
They wanted to cap off the season with a championship.
“We really felt that we wanted to play as hard as we could for a numbers of reasons, for the city,” Zdeno Chara said. “We were very proud of the fans the way they stood behind us.”