The stakes were clear: In a Stanley Cup Final elimination game, the away team held a one-goal advantage during the second period.
And while fighting to preserve the Bruins’ 1-0 lead, it was Boston defenseman Charlie McAvoy who made one of the memorable plays of Sunday’s Game 6 in St. Louis.
A shot from Alex Pietrangelo hit the post before bouncing off Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask’s back. The puck flew through the air toward the goal-line, appearing destined to tie the game. But McAvoy’s quick thinking helped prevent the goal.
With a quick flick of his stick, the 21-year-old swatted the puck out of mid-air back into Rask before it eventually fell to the side of the net.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) June 10, 2019
The sequence happened so quickly that commentators and fans only fully realized McAvoy’s brilliant assist of Rask on replay.
“I saw it go off the post and off [Rask’s] back, and kind of, I don’t know, I just had a split-second reflex and swatted at it,” McAvoy explained afterward.
The goal-saving clearance came only shortly after the young Boston defenseman produced a perfect pass that could’ve led to a goal. McAvoy found Danton Heinen cutting in on goal earlier in the second period. Only Heinen’s inability to keep control of the puck denied the Bruins a clear scoring opportunity.
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) June 10, 2019
Boston not only held on, but eventually built on its lead to win 5-1, forcing a Game 7 at TD Garden on Wednesday. For McAvoy, it’s a moment he won’t forget.
“It’s my first Stanley Cup, and it’s just a lot,” McAvoy summarized afterward with a smile and a shrug.
“Our backs are against the wall, and you have so many mixed emotions,” McAvoy continued. “You do whatever it takes. This is your dream to win this thing, and when your backs are against the wall and you know they’re one win away, it hurts a little bit. But I got a different perspective when our guys stepped up and just talked.
“It was an element of honesty to it about being in this position and knowing that if we just do our jobs, we’re a family. We believe in each other and we all love each other. Just the thought of it being over tonight was terrifying. We’d come all this way. We come together when it matters, and I think tonight was just a good example of that. We’re thankful. We’re blessed with a chance to play a Game 7 now.”
McAvoy made his NHL debut with the Bruins in the playoffs in 2017. Two years later, he will be fighting to help Boston win the Stanley Cup.
“Dreaming of this moment my whole life to win this trophy,” said McAvoy. “That’s really all it is, is just a dream. Then all of a sudden you’re here, it’s gone by fast, we’re already in Game 7. I’ll be damned if I blink.”