BOSTON -- When Tuukka Rask plays at an elite Superman level then the Bruins win hockey games.
When the Finnish netminder is more of the mild-mannered, Clark Kent-level of goaltender then the flawed B’s don’t have much chance to come away victorious.
That was the case in Saturday night’s 5-2 loss to the New York Rangers at TD Garden with Rask surrendering a couple of soft, preventable goals, and in sum total allowing a season-high five goals to the highest scoring team in the NHL. Afterward Rask lamented some of the odd-man rushes the Bruins surrendered to the speedy Rangers that ended up in the back of their net, and the soft-ish goals he couldn’t stop once New York really seized the momentum in the game’s final 40 minutes.
“It’s difficult, but I just try to stay patient. When the pucks start going through you, you’d kind of like to have those back. But that’s hockey and it happens sometimes, I got off bad in the first period. We started good. I made some saves, felt good, and then [some] tough bounces on a couple goals and it’s two-one, and we never could recover from that,” said Rask, who suffered his first loss of the season at 6-1-0 with a 1.98 goals against average and .932 save percentage that still have him around the top-5 in both categories. “It’s kind of tough but that’s how it goes.
“I felt good in the first. No rebounds. And then, the first goal, it is what it is. Then the second, off the guy’s shin pads, it’s something you can’t really control. Then the 3-1 goal, it’s just a five-hole so kind of a bad goal. Then the last one, [it was] obviously a bad goal, so that’s about it. When you let in a couple bad ones and mix in a couple lucky ones, it gets ugly. That’s what happened tonight.”
The first goal allowed was on David Krejci, who attempted to catch a Nick Holden point shot, and screened Rask in the process before missing the gloved stab attempt to stop the wobbly wrist shot. The second New York score was a bad bounce off Derek Stepan’s skate after Tuukka Rask had made the initial 2-on-1 save, so the Bruins goalie was still in decent shape after the first 20 minutes in a one-goal game.
But the floodgates opened after that as the Rangers kept coming in speedy, skilled waves: a shorthanded Kevin Hayes bid on a 3-on-1 went right through the five-hole for Rask as he looked to be playing pass rather than shot, and Michael Grabner cleanly beat Rask for the fifth and final score on a roofed wrist shot that the Bruins goalie would clearly like to have back.
While Rask wasn’t nearly as sharp as he had been through the season’s first six games, a special teams unit that allowed one Rangers power play goal, and a couple of shorthanded scores as well, was clearly worthy of the biggest slice of B’s blame pie.
But Rask wasn’t dominant behind a Bruins special teams group that experienced some very shaky moments and a defensive group that was tested early and often 5-on-5 by the explosive Rangers as well. To make matters worse: it looked like the Finnish goalie again aggravated his chronic lower body injury when he stretched out into full butterfly during the second period to stop a Brandon Pirri backhanded bid right in front of the net. Rask didn’t miss any time and waved off the Bruins training staff immediately afterward, but it appeared exactly like the same buckling under following full extension that he suffered in both the Columbus and New Jersey games earlier this season.
Rask gingerly picking himself up off the ice afterward and stretched out a bit during the following TV timeout, but didn’t have any other noticeable problems through the rest of the 19-save loss.
Rask spoke to reporters following the defeat and didn’t seem any worse for the wear at that point, so there’s no way of knowing if he truly tweaked the injury given that the Bruins cancelled their scheduled Sunday practice at Warrior Ice Arena.
But it bears watching with Rask moving forward given how important his dominance is to Boston’s fortunes this season, and the nagging feeling that he might be playing through something that might not fully go away anytime soon.