Patrice Bergeron lit a fire with his pregame speech, and the Bruins forced a Game 7
ST. LOUIS — Patrice Bergeron spoke in the locker room, as he often does before games. But this was not a typical pregame speech.
One of the greatest Bruins poured his heart onto the floor in front of his teammates, with the Stanley Cup in the building, as they prepared to keep their season alive.
Bergeron didn’t produce a point in Boston’s 5-1 trouncing of St. Louis in Game 6 Sunday, but his teammates turned his words into furious action, playing their best game of the series at the most critical time.
“He’s a legend,” Jake DeBrusk said after the Bruins forced a Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, to be played Wednesday night in Boston. “To see him set the tone that way, it made us want to run through a wall.”
David Pastrnak called Bergeron’s message “unbelievable leadership. It’s insane what this guy brings to the team every single day,” he said. “Sharing moments like he did . . . it touched every single one of us and got us going.”
It is unusual that teammates won’t say what Bergeron’s words were. They would only relay the gist of it. Coach Bruce Cassidy called it “tremendous.” Bergeron himself told a French reporter that he stressed that, “We are in a situation that is everyone’s childhood dream here and we must realize it.”
Charlie McAvoy said more, and with reverence.
“It was an element of what the dream is,” McAvoy said. “Growing up, every one of us shares the same dream.
“We were all a little kid once and we all wanted this bad. And I think it was just an element of savoring this moment and not letting it end tonight. It was exactly what we needed. He stepped up. When he talks, you listen.”
And the Bruins silenced these Blues, whose fans had swarmed into downtown on a warm, sunny afternoon long before Bergeron, who has been quiet, put his stamp on this series. An estimated 40,000 filled Market Street, hoping to experience hockey heaven for the first time in their team’s 52-year history.
They left cursing the name of Tuukka Rask, the ace netminder who stopped 28 shots, 12 of them on Boston’s perfect penalty kill (4 for 4).
While St. Louis waits for its first Cup, the Bruins will try for their first Game 7 Cup win at home. A Cup Final has never before come to Causeway Street tied, 3-3. It will be the first Game 7 for a championship in Boston since the Celtics defeated the Lakers in 1984.
Brad Marchand, Brandon Carlo, Karson Kuhlman, David Pastrnak, and Zdeno Chara scored for Boston, but there was Rask, with the opponent poised to clinch the Cup, and he looked 10 feet tall to a frustrated group of St. Louis shooters.
“Good for Tuukka,” Cassidy said. “He’s allowed us an opportunity to play in a Game 7. I think the whole hockey world loves a Game 7, so it should be a great night in Boston and may the best team win.”
In the other net, Jordan Binnington came up small.
The rookie let a one-hop wrister from Carlo skip past him at 2:31 of the third period, a backbreaker that gave Boston a 2-0 lead. The knuckling try from 58 feet went through traffic, skipped about 10 feet in front of the net, and squirted under Binnington’s arm. Carlo, who had a shorthanded goal in Game 5, has his first two career playoff goals at the most critical time.
Binnington didn’t have much of a chance to stop Marchand’s 5-on-3 one-timer, which gave Boston a 1-0 lead at 8:40 of the first. Binnington was beat by a killer shot from Kuhlman, who sent a rocket far side at 10:15 of the third. The Bruins, for the first time this series, carried 5-on-5 play. They outshot the Blues, 26-16, and outscored them, 3-1.
The Blues, ferocious on the forecheck, had 43 shot attempts through two periods, but the Bruins blocked 12. It was as if the players were told they couldn’t have their name etched on the Cup unless they laid in front of a slap shot. They finished with 16 stuffs, a major reason St. Louis dropped to 1 for 18 on the PP in the series.
When shots did get through, Rask was massive, stopping tips, deflections, and anything straight on. The only goal he allowed was a Ryan O’Reilly stuff-in that was shown via replay to be just over the line.
Quiet for most of the series, the top line (two goals) and second line (one goal, on the ice for another) showed up when the Bruins needed them most. Pastrnak scored his first even-strength goal of the series. Kuhlman had his first career playoff goal.
When Carlo’s bouncer struck gold, the Bruins could taste it.
When Kulhman’s snap shot went off the post and in — making him the 21st Bruin to score this postseason — they knew.
When Pastrnak put one under the bar with 5:54 left and Chara, the captain playing with a busted jaw, sailed home an empty-netter from his zone, it was well in the bag.
The fans chanting “We Want the Cup” in the final minute were thinking wishfully.
The Cup is on its way to Boston. Someone will win it Wednesday night.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Marchand said. “We’re not going to get caught up in the excitement of it. We’re going to prepare the same way.”
If they play the same way, they’ll have all summer to celebrate.