AP Photo/Elise Amendola
BOSTON BRUINS- For the second time since 2011, the Boston Bruins are headed for the Stanley Cup finals. And like the memorable 2011 campaign, the clinching game was a 1-0 affair.
Much like Wednesday night's 2OT thriller at the Garden, this was more the kind of game I had anticipated from the Pittsburgh Penguins- low scoring and, at times, physical.
After going scoreless through the first two periods, defenseman Adam McQuaid opened (and closed, as it turns out) the scoring five minutes into the 3rd period with this:
Not bad for a guy who was hospitalized at Mass General with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome during the lockout.
There's a school of thought in the NHL that a two goal lead is actually the most difficult to maintain, the rationale being that being up by multiple goals breeds overconfidence and complacency- leading to panic, confusion and demoralization should the game once again be tied.
However, I'm willing to guess that those on the Boston Bruins roster (both this year and in 2011) will tell you that a 1-0 lead with more than 10 minutes to go in the 3rd is the most difficult lead to maintain.
With the clock ticking down, the Penguins mounting a spirited counterattack late and the crowd at the Garden chanting "We want the Cup!", Tukka Rask turned aside every shot he faced on Friday night. Perhaps the most emblematic was when the Penguins pulled Vokoun for the extra attacker late in the 3rd and with the final seconds ticking away, Rask gloved a last second shot from Pens RW Jerome Iginla as time expired. For those of you who remember, Iginla spurned a trade from Calgary to Boston at the last moment and instead opted to join the Pittsburgh Penguins as trade deadline loomed.
Rask turned aside all 22 shots he faced on Firday night while Vokoun stopped all but one of the 21 shots he faced. With no more Greg Campbell for the rest of the season, the Bruins slotted in LW Kaspars Daugavins, who had two shots on goal Friday night.
The 4-game sweep of the Penguins earns the Bruins the Prince of Wales trophy and their second trip to the Stanley Cup finals since 2011....not bad for a season that almost didn't happen!
For its part, the Penguins were 0-15 on the power play throughout the series and outscored by a composite 12-2 through the four games. Some describe Pittsburgh's getting swept from the Eastern Conference finals as a 'collapse' but I think that undersells the Bruins and their accomplishments considerably. They clearly got under the Pens' collective skin in Game 1 and never let up.
Of course, there would be a little bit of a waiting game involved to see who Boston would face in the 2013 Stanley Cup finals, which leads us to..
ELSEWHERE IN THE NHL- The Bruins and Pens weren't the only ones who had some double OT action going on in the Conference finals.
With fifteen seconds to go in the third and the defending Stanley Cup champion LA Kings down by a goal, Los Angeles pulled netminder Quick for an extra attacker. Nine times out of ten, this move NEVER works (even with a full minute remaining on the clock) but nobody bothered telling LA's Anze Kopitar or Mike Richards that.
The (almost literally) last second goal by the Kings tied the contest up at 3-3. Although that appeared to suck the life out of the crowd at Chicago's United Center it would be the Blackhawks who had the last laugh in double OT thanks to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Chicago wins the Western Conference finals in five games and the Bruins had to wait barely 24 hours to find out who they'd face in the Stanley Cup championship. Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals is scheduled for Wednesday at 8:00 ET from the United Center and will be broadcast on NBC, the CBC and XM channels 92 and 212. This will be the first time since 1979 that the Stanley Cup finals will feature two Original 6 teams going head-to-head.
The Angels drew first blood with two away on the top of the first thanks to a two out Albert Pujols solo homer. In the bottom of the 3rd, Daniel Nava brought Jacoby Ellsbury home on a one out RBI single. Pedroia would follow that up with a single of his own, setting the stage for Big Papi to belt a 3-run homer to give Boston the 4-1 lead.
3B Alberto Callaspo would cut the Boston lead in half by leading off the 4th with a solo homer. In the bottom half of the frame, Mike Carp reached 2nd safely on Callaspo's throwing error and then advance to 3rd on a wild pitch from Blanton. Ellsbury would then bring him home with an RBI triple before the Angels got the 3rd out to make it a 5-2 Boston lead.
In the top of the 5th, Angels outfielder Mike Trout led off the inning with a double and come home on a 2-out Mark Trumbo RBI single to once again bring the Angels within two runs at 5-3. Blanton pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the 5th while Dempster would get the Angels in order to start off the 6th inning.
However, the Red Sox would once again get some insurance when C Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Mike Carp led off the bottom of the 6th with back to back solo homers to make it 7-3.
The Red Sox would break the game wide open in the bottom of the 7th when Saltalmacchia belted a 3 run homer to make it 10-3. Although the Angels would get a few runs back, the Red Sox would cruise from there and go on to win by a final of 10-5.
Saltalamacchia went 2-4 with 2 homers and 4 RBI while Big Papi went 2-4 with 1 HR and 3 RBI. Dempster pitched 6 complete innings allowing six hits, three earned runs and struck out six for his fourth win of the season.
After winning sox of their last eight, the Red Sox will hit the road once again- taking on the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana field on Monday night. John Lackey [3-5; 2.79 ERA] is scheduled to start against Tampa Bay's Alex Cobb [6-2; 2.39 ERA]. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 ET and the game will be televised on ESPN.