BOSTON, Mass – There was a point much earlier in the season when it seemed that Tuukka Rask simply couldn’t win a game, and now it’s a reality that the Bruins No. 1 goaltender simply can’t lose. Rask stopped 37 shots including a show-stopping 20 saves in the first period en route to a Bruins 3-2 win over the New Jersey Devils at TD Garden on Tuesday night.
Rask extended his unbeaten streak to 17 games with a 15-0-2 record and truly helped the Black and Gold steal a game they probably didn’t deserve against a New Jersey team that was desperate for the two points. He was also at his best early and late with the 20 saves in the first period as the Bruins got their footing, and another 12 stops in the third period including a stone wall job on a Damon Severson breakaway while protecting a slim one-goal lead.
For a goalie that is often accused of not stealing enough games for his team, Rask was guilty of grand larceny hockey game vs. the Devils in the best way possible.
“I think the quality saves were more [happening] late [in the game]. I think early on there was a lot of volume of shots. I think their game plan was clearly to funnel everything to the net and see what happens. Sometimes you can’t let the shot clock dictate how you are playing because I thought we had some good looks from the slot,” said Bruce Cassidy. “They clearly had better puck possession than us, and that was the issue. Sooner or later when you start funneling pucks to the net, bad things happen for us…penalties, bounces, deflections, and that’s what happened, obviously, [on] their first goal. So that was a concern, but I thought Tuukka was our best player.”
Clearly Cassidy has a point as the Devils’ chances early were largely from the perimeter in the first period with the slot getting well protected by the Bruins defense, but they were much higher quality late in the game as things broke down a little bit. Either way Rask admitted he was pushed into battling a little bit more against the Devils based on the heavy traffic in front, and the odd angles that shots were coming at him fast and furiously.
“It’s tough, but you just try to stay compact and behind the puck. There were a lot of shots that they took from bad angles and I couldn’t control the rebounds,” admitted Rask. “It was just one of those nights that the puck doesn’t really stick to you as much as usual. You would like it to but then you just have to battle and make the rebound saves.
“Today, I think we had to defend a lot compared to the last few weeks but there were a lot of rebounds and they took care of them. I think we were really good at getting the puck out of our own zone, wheeling with the puck and finding the open guy with the breakout. The guys did a great job.”
Rask is also doing a good job with the .923 save percentage and 2.16 goals against average that continues to improve game after game, and more importantly the wins that keep stacking on top of each other for a goalie that’s answered the challenge from earlier in the season.