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BOSTON (AP) — The puck bounced off the post and rolled across the crease, away from the goal line. The red light flashed briefly, but replays would confirm 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 on 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 gametime.
Game 4 is Wednesday night 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 unspecified 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.”
Julien said Chara slipped and “had a little gash over his eye. Nothing serious,” the coach said of his captain and No. 1 defenseman, who still managed to lead the team in ice time.
Quenneville was less forthcoming with information on Hossa’s malady, sticking to the standard NHL diagnosis: Upper body.
“We’ll say ‘day-to-day.’ We’re hopeful he’ll be ready for the next game,” he said, adding that it did not happen during warmups, as had been reported on the team’s Twitter account and the TV broadcast. “It was a game-time decision after the warmup there. That’s when we made the call, after warmup.”
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.
“You’re playing the last five minutes of the game, you know they’re going to throw everything at you that they possibly can,” Rask said. “Got the penalty there. Got a little lucky there, one save off my blade and the post.”
After a scoreless first period, the Bruins made it 1-0 when Paille slapped in the puck at 2:13 of the second, falling to one knee for extra power. It stayed that way until late in the second, when the Bruins picked up their first power plays of the game on two nearly identical sequences, with a Bruin racing to the net and a Blackhawk undercutting his skates and sending him crashing into the left post.
Boston set up its offense during the 11-second two-man advantage, and just five seconds after it expired — but before Dave Bolland was able to get back into the play — Jaromir Jagr slid one across the middle, past Lucic in the center to Bergeron on the other side; he settled it and then knocked it in.
It was Jagr’s 197th career playoff point in 199 games, moving him into sole possession of fifth place on the NHL’s all-time postseason points list.
Notes: Jagr had been tied with Paul Coffey on the career postseason scoring list. ... Two of Jagr’s playoff points came on goals scored against the Blackhawks when they were swept by the Penguins in 1992 final. ... Boston’s Gregory Campbell, who broke his leg blocking a shot in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, attended the game. ... The Bruins have killed off 27 straight penalties in the playoffs. ... Boston’s David Krejci entered the game tied with Chicago’s Andrew Sharp for the most goals in the postseason with nine. The Bruins center entered the game leading all scorers with 23 points. ... The Bruins are attempting to win a Cup for the second time in three seasons for the third time in their history. They also did it in 1939 and ‘41 and again in 1970 and ‘72. ... The Bruins won their seventh straight home playoff game. ... The Blackhawks fell to 3-5 on the road in the postseason. ... Ben Smith, who played just one game this regular season and none in the playoffs, replaced Hossa in the lineup.