The way the game was going, with goals at an absolute premium, the first one, whenever it came, seemed destined to be the only one. And so it was.
In the third period Friday night, the Boston Bruins delivered the coup de grâce to the scoring-challenged Pittsburgh Penguins. It came off the stick of a most unlikely source, defenseman Adam McQuaid, a finalist for the Masterton trophy, which recognizes perseverance and sportsmanship. It gave Boston a 1-0 victory and a sweep of the Eastern Conference finals.
For the second time in three years, the Bruins reached the Stanley Cup finals, where they will play Chicago or Los Angeles. The Bruins won the Cup in 2011, ending a 39-year drought.
For the Penguins, it was a humiliating end to a season they had hoped would result in a second Stanley Cup since 2009. Instead, they were swept in a series for the first time since 1979.
McQuaid’s goal, at 5:11, came on a blistering slap shot from the right point off an ideal setup by Brad Marchand, who also assisted on the winner in Game 3. Marchand eluded several Penguins and found McQuaid alone. The shot sailed over the right shoulder of goalie Tomas Vokoun.
The goal continued a trend for the Bruins in the postseason. Defensemen have accounted for 30 percent of their 50 goals. For McQuaid, it was his second of the postseason. He also scored in Game 3 of Boston’s first-round series against Toronto.
The impenetrable Tuukka Rask (a playoff-best .943 save percentage) made it stand up with his second shutout of the series. He allowed two goals in the four games. He stopped 26 shots, frustrating the Penguins time after time. Neither Sidney Crosby nor Evgeni Malkin nor Jarome Iginla, who spurned Boston at the trading deadline, managed a single point in the series.
Pittsburgh’s offensive woes were epitomized by its power play, which was held scoreless.
The Penguins pulled Vokoun in the final 90 seconds and still got nothing, even as Rask played several seconds without his stick.
As the clock wound down, the fans in TD Garden, who included David Ortiz and Keegan Bradley, chanted, “We want the Cup.”
The Bruins, as expected, activated wing Kaspars Daugavins to replace the injured Gregory Campbell (broken leg). Coach Claude Julien shuffled his third and fourth lines, replacing Campbell with third-line center Chris Kelly.
Campbell was recognized with a video tribute 13 minutes into the game, showing him hobbling off the ice after breaking his leg two nights earlier. Campbell was then shown on the Jumbotron, sitting in the press level, his crutches to his right.
The Campbell tribute and subsequent recognition of him passed for the first-period highlights. The Penguins botched another power-play opportunity, extending their futility streak to 13 in the series. To make matters worse, Crosby was knocked to the ice by Daniel Paille during the power play. Crosby did not see Paille, and his helmet hit the ice, making him woozy. But he returned and had three of the Penguins’ nine shots on goal.
The Bruins, marginally less effective, came up empty for the 11th time in 11 chances on their first power play, after Pittsburgh was caught with too many men on the ice.
The Penguins did make one minor lineup change, replacing center Joe Vitale with center Tyler Kennedy. Vitale took a penalty in Game 3 that cost the Penguins a power-play opportunity. Kennedy had appeared in eight playoff games, including Game 1 of the conference finals.
Daugavins and Tyler Seguin had two glittering chances in the second period to snap the scoreless deadlock, but Vokoun was equal to the task on both occasions. Those were two of just six shots the Bruins could muster on Vokoun, while Rask stopped 11 shots.
Both teams again failed to convert on power plays. Marchand figured in all three infractions called in the period. He and Matt Niskanen were called for matching roughing minors, and then Marchand was whistled for interference. No sooner had he left the box than he got Brenden Morrow in the penalty box on a hooking call.