BOSTON — The puck bounced off the post and rolled across the crease, away from the goal line. The red light flashed briefly, but replays confirmed that Tuukka Rask’s shutout streak was intact.
For the last 122 minutes, 26 seconds of the Stanley Cup finals, the Bruins goalie has prevented Chicago from scoring.
Rask made 28 more saves in Game 3 Monday night to earn his third shutout of the postseason, leading Boston to a 2-0 victory over the Blackhawks and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“We ran up against some of the best goalies in the league here,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “Tonight I thought we made it rather easy on him as far as traffic and finding and seeing pucks. I think we’ve got to be better at going to the net.”
After playing four extra periods in the first two games, the Bruins made an early night of it in Game 3 with second-period goals by Daniel Paille and Patrice Bergeron.
Corey Crawford had 33 saves for a Blackhawks team playing without Marian Hossa, who was scratched just before game time.
Game 4 is tonight in Boston before the matchup of Original Six franchises returns to Chicago for a fifth game. The teams split the first two games there, with the Blackhawks winning Game 1 in triple-overtime and the Bruins stealing home-ice advantage on Paille’s goal in the first OT of the second game.
“Obviously, you go triple-overtime, (then) overtime the next game, it takes a lot of energy out of you,” Rask said. “But we’ll take a regulation win, for sure.”
This time the intrigue came before the opening faceoff instead of after the end of regulation.
Hossa and Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara both left the ice after warmups. But while Chara needed just some stitches after a collision with teammate Milan Lucic, Hossa was dropped from the lineup with an injury.
“I was as surprised as anybody else,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “I can definitely tell you they lost a pretty important player on their roster, but that doesn’t mean we change our game. I think it’s important we stick with what we believe in.”
Hossa, who has three game-winning goals in the playoffs this year, was tied for the team lead with 15 playoff points and was third on the Blackhawks with 17 goals during the regular season.
It was a loss the Blackhawks couldn’t afford. Not with Rask stopping everything that came his way.
The backup to Conn Smythe-winner Tim Thomas in the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup run, Rask didn’t face as difficult a test as in the first period of Game 2, when the Blackhawks sent 19 shots at him but managed just one goal.
The Bruins outshot Chicago 26-18 and led 2-0 after two periods. The Blackhawks had a 10-9 edge in the third, including a late flurry on a 6-on-4 — a power play with Crawford pulled for an extra skater — that led to Bryan Bickell’s shot off the post with 42 seconds left in the game.
The puck caromed off the right post as play continued for another 30 seconds before the whistle blew and the game degenerated into fisticuffs. Chara was on top of Bickell, pounding away, and Andrew Shaw got the better of Brad Marchand.
By the time it was all sorted out, the benches were a little emptier and the scoring column for Chicago was still blank.
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