The Boston Bruins are back in the Stanley Cup finals.
For the second time in three years, the Bruins will fight for the coveted chalice after Adam McQuaid's third-period goal gave the team a 1-0 win and a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals.
Backed by a stout defense and a 26-save shutout from Tuukka Rask, his second of the series and the playoffs, Boston capped a remarkable conference finals performance that saw the team allow just two goals to a high-powered Pittsburgh offense.
The Bruins now await the winner of the Chicago/Los Angeles series in the Western Conference and will be going for their seventh Stanley Cup championship in the history of the franchise. Boston defeated Vancouver in seven games to win its last championship in 2011.
"I think we definitely need to enjoy this tonight," said Boston forward Milan Lucic. "We don't know who we're playing yet, so like I said, just enjoy it the next couple of days and then regroup, refocus, and go out there and start having fun again."
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, failed to advance to the Cup finals for the first time since winning it all in 2009 -- the third trophy in the history of the franchise -- despite having some of the best offensive players in the game.
Superstar captain Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were held without a point in the series, as were late-season additions Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow.
Tomas Vokoun, who had played admirably in the playoffs after relieving an ineffective Marc-Andre Fleury in the Penguins' opening-round series against the Islanders, made 23 stops in the final game of the postseason for Pittsburgh.
"These past two games were some of the most hard-fought hockey games I've ever been a part of," said Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma. "Our guys left everything they had on the ice, but we just couldn't get that goal that we needed."
This game stayed scoreless until the third period when Boston took the lead at 5:01.
Brad Marchand skated the puck in down the left wing as both sides went for a line change. After gaining the zone, Marchand peeled off his defender and waited a moment before sliding the puck over to the slot where McQuaid picked it up. Moving a bit to the right, McQuaid blasted a big shot that went past the glove of Vokoun and into the left corner for his second of the playoffs.
"It obviously feels good," said McQuaid. "It feels good to be able to contribute that way when you don't normally.
From there, the Bruins did a good job of shutting the Penguins down as they allowed just six shots on net.
Kris Letang took a tripping call at 11:21 to give Boston a power play, but Nathan Horton took a penalty just over a minute later. After skating 4-on-4, Pittsburgh had 63 seconds of a man advantage, but was unable to take advantage.
Late in the game, Pittsburgh got Vokoun out of the net for an extra attacker and went to work in the Boston end.
Malkin nearly tied the game with 40 seconds left as he tried to get a shot through with Rask out of position, but Zdeno Chara blocked the shot and that sealed the series win for Boston.
It was a chippy first period with a total of 25 hits and 20 shots, but neither side broke through despite each squad having a power play in the frame.
Rask made his best stop of the frame when he deflected a Crosby shot in the clear from the slot about 7 1/2 minutes in, while Vokoun stopped Lucic down low during Boston's power play halfway through the frame.
Pittsburgh caught a break about three minutes into the second period as Kaspars Daugavins was in the clear for a shot from the slot, but it hit off the left post and stayed out.
Rask made a pad save on a Malkin shot 4 1/2 minutes into the second during 4- on-4 play, and each team killed off a penalty later in the frame.
Vokoun had 17 saves through the first 40 minutes, while Rask had turned away 20.
It's the 19th time that the Bruins have advanced to the Stanley Cup finals ... Boston has won three of the five playoff matchups against Pittsburgh ... Rask stopped 134-of-136 shots in the series and has a 1.75 goals against average in the playoffs ... Both teams were 0-for-3 on the power play ... Boston has 15 goals from its defensemen in the playoffs.