Adam McQuaid had not scored a true game-winning goal in his NHL career. His very first goal opened the scoring in a 3-0 win back in 2010. On Friday night, he finally scored that game winner and it doubled as the series-closing tally as the Boston Bruins finished their sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins to advance to the Stanley Cup Final.
That goal gave McQuaid his first point of the series. That was one more than the combined total of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. It was one more goal than the Penguins' power play could muster on 15 opportunities. It was one less than the Penguins managed to score on Tuukka Rask, who stopped 134 of 136 shots over the four games.
Rask, who after watching Tim Thomas do the job in 2011, enters this Cup Final as the Bruins' main man between the pipes and is playing his best hockey of the season. He stifled the Penguins, who exit the playoffs on a 126:28 scoreless streak. After Rask denied James Neal on an opportunity in the Bruins' end, Brad Marchand streaked down into the other end, pulled up and found McQuaid, who fired the puck (with help from a deflection off Jarome Iginla's stick) over Tomas Vokoun's glove for the 1-0 lead 5:01 into the final period:
"I remember before the game telling [McQuaid] he was going to get one today and it ended up being a huge one for us," Milan Lucic told NBC Sports Network's Pierre McGuire.
Minutes after McQuaid's goal, the We Want the Cup! chants began inside TD Garden, with the Bruins' faithful knowing that given how the Pittsburgh offense had sputtered through the first three games, one goal in Game 4 could be enough to secure victory.
The Bruins will now have either have five or eight days to rest and heal up before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. If the Chicago Blackhawks eliminate the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, the Final will begin Wednesday night. If the Kings force a Game 6, the Final kicks off on June 15.
During the presentation of the Prince of Wales Trophy, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara didn't touch it, just like in 2011, and instead called his teammates over to celebrate together. Supersititon was followed, but that wasn't the only similarity to their recent season of success.
In 2011, the Bruins came within an overtime goal in Game 7 against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of being eliminated. They survived and won the Cup. In 2013, they needed a three-goal, third period comeback and an overtime winner to get past the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round.
Twice now the Bruins have been given new life after a first round scare and ran with it. It worked in 2011. Will it in 2013?
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy