Tuukka Rask playing inspired hockey since his return

Tuukka Rask playing inspired hockey since his return

BOSTON – The Boston Bruins appear to have a motivated and inspired No. 1 goaltender on their hands ready to finish up strong at the end of the hockey season. 

Tuukka Rask made it back-to-back strong performances with a 27-save effort in securing his seventh shutout of the season, and led the Bruins to a 2-0 win over the Dallas Stars at TD Garden on Thursday night. Rask was at his best in the third period when he stopped 11 shots and didn’t give an inch while his teammates battled in front of him to protect a two-goal lead. 

There weren’t many golden scoring chances for the Stars among them, but Rask held strong to his angles and didn’t allow for any lapses in concentration or focus at a point in the season when the Bruins need perfect execution from everyone. 

“I thought he earned his keep tonight. He was our best player. When we broke down, he was there,” said interim Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “They were off net a few chances, and I think from my vantage point his angles were so solid that there wasn’t much net to shoot at. He [had it] under control. So it certainly makes it easier, but when you’re in your end that much it’s taxing on the goaltender.  

“I think if you asked him, he enjoys when the D are working so hard to get sticks in lanes and willing to block shots without taking away his vision. That’s a fine line there and I think we’ve done a good job with that.”

In two games since sitting out last weekend’s win over the Islanders, Rask has stopped 51-of-52 shots for a .981 save percentage. Meanwhile, the Bruins' defense has blocked shots, played good positional defense and managed the puck with a purpose. That’s all translated into some pretty good hockey with a No. 1 goalie that’s playing like he’s trying to prove a point to those that have cast doubt on his abilities to come through in late season big games. 

“They had a lot of chances, but I saw them so that makes it easier,” said Rask, who is one win away from tying his all-time career high in wins (36) in a single season. “Positionally, I tried to be in the right spot and as I said, we blocked shots and then took care of the second [shot] and the rebounds. [The ones] that were there we cleared them and that’s a big difference. [The three-game win streak] was something we needed to do and something we need to continue to do. Other teams behind us are not, you know, they’re breathing on our necks for sure. So we have to keep on plugging away and keep winning. That’s the only thing we can control, but obviously after a four-game losing streak, we needed to change and so far, so good.”

Plugging away and winning is what the Bruins have to do as a team, and it’s what Rask must continue to do as an elite goaltender with just five games remaining and everything on the line for a top shelf Bruins goalie that sure looks like he’s playing with a fire lit under him right now.

Bruins resiliency on full display in third-period comeback vs Stars

AP Photo

Bruins resiliency on full display in third-period comeback vs Stars

GOLD STAR: Every once in a while Brad Marchand wills the Bruins to a win that they probably wouldn’t have otherwise had, and that happened again on Friday night with a three-point explosion for No. 63 in the final 20 minutes. Marchand finished with a goal and three points in 19:57 of ice time along with a plus-2 rating, and played a key role in the three-goal outburst that allowed the B’s to vanquish a 2-0 deficit. It was Marchand that opted not to shoot from the face-off dot with a look at the net in the closing seconds, and instead dropped it down low to David Pastrnak as he curled around the net and pushed a puck past Kari Lehtonen for the game-winner. Marchand finished with two shots on net, eight total shot attempts and a number of big plays in the third period redirecting pucks in close, kicking off shorthanded scoring plays and then setting up clutch game-winners in the final 15 seconds of the game. It’s the kind of night where Marchand played like an MVP even if he isn’t going to get much of a sniff at the Hart Trophy. 

BLACK EYE: Jamie Benn scored a shorthanded goal for the Dallas Stars, but he also jumped up in the air and clobbered Brad Marchand from behind with a completely unnecessary hit in the third period that went without a penalty being called. Instead it seemed to incense Marchand, who never gave up in the final sequence and ultimately fed a pass to David Pastrnak down low for the game-winner with just 11.1 seconds remaining in the game. Benn finished a minus-2 for Dallas while being on the ice for a pair of goals against, had a brutal 1-for-7 performance in the face-off dot and really acted like a punk on the play with Marchand in the third period. Benn is a better player than that and shouldn’t be resorting that level on a fellow star player like Marchand. 

TURNING POINT: Once again the Bruins really turned things around in the third period while outscoring the Stars by a 3-0 margin, and really flooding the Dallas net with 10 of their 36 shots on net for the night. It all started with a relentless shift from Boston’s top line where Riley Nash made a pass from his knees before taking a big hit, and then Brad Marchand redirected a David Pastrnak shot from the slot off his leg and into the net for Boston’s first goal. That first score finally allowed the Bruins to begin building some momentum, score each of the next two goals as the game slipped away from Dallas and once again proved themselves as a hockey club that one doesn’t ever doubt in the third period. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Tuukka Rask had a career-high 40 saves and turned away some really good looks from the Dallas offense while showing exactly what the Bruins can be capable of when their goaltending is on point. The only goals that beat Rask were a first period score with droves of traffic in front of the net, and a second period shorthanded score for Jamie Benn where he pulled one of those unconventional finishing moves on Rask at the very end. Rask made 11 saves on the Dallas power play alone during a trio of PP chances, and made a crucial leg pad save on Antoine Roussel in the third period that helped open things up for the goal-scoring outburst late in the game. Hopefully the strong, resounding performance from Rask answers some of the questions about some of his recent so-so performances between the pipes.   

BY THE NUMBERS: 29 – the number of goals this season for David Pastrnak as he readies to become only the ninth Bruins player to hit the 30-goal plateau in back-to-back seasons over the last 35 years of franchise history. 

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Resiliency. We didn’t want to go quietly for sure. We can live with the end result as long as we play the right way. The end result went our way again in the end, and I think that’s a credit to the guys.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN about another comeback win for the Black and Gold.

Pastrnak scores with 12 seconds left to lift Bruins over Stars, 3-2

AP Photo

Pastrnak scores with 12 seconds left to lift Bruins over Stars, 3-2

DALLAS - David Pastrnak broke a tie with 12 seconds left and the Boston Bruins scored three straight goals in the third period to rally past the fading Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night.

A scramble followed a faceoff in the Dallas end, and Brad Marchand passed to Pastrnak in front. While falling down, he put the puck past Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen.

Tuukka Rask made a season-high 40 saves for the Bruins. Marchand scored Boston's first goal and also assisted on a short-handed goal by Tim Schaller that tied it midway through the third period.

The second-place Bruins won for the first time in three games (1-0-2) to move within four points of Atlantic Division leader Tampa Bay. Boston has already clinched a playoff berth.

The Stars are winless in their last seven games (0-5-2). They remained four points behind Colorado for the second Western Conference wild card.

Dallas led 2-0 on a first-period goal by Esa Lindell and Jamie Benn's short-handed score late in the second.

In the third, Marchand tipped in a shot by Pastrnak before Schaller scored on a 2-on-1 with Marchand.

Lehtonen finished with 33 saves.

Lindell scored 2:26 into the game. Jason Dickinson tried to deflect a shot from the right point into the net but the puck went wide right. Curtis McKenzie picked it up behind the goal line and passed to Lindell high in the left faceoff circle. His wrist shot went in off Rask's right arm.

Benn missed two good scoring opportunities early in the second period, but connected at 19:22. He took a pass from Tyler Seguin at the Dallas blue line and had a breakaway when Matt Grzelcyk fell down. Benn slid a backhand under Rask.