BOSTON -- It might have raised some eyebrows when Tuukka Rask was handed the plum assignment of facing the New York Rangers in a Saturday afternoon matinee at the Garden.
It was a clash of the Eastern Conference titans vying for the top spot, and it was the first impression game with three more scheduled clashes before the playoffs begin for a pair of teams that will be there in the end. So it was a marquee game to drop the Finnish understudy into against Swedish netminder Henrik Lundqvist, and Rask didnt disappoint even if he didnt wind up on the winning end of things.
Rask had a seven-game winning streak snapped in the 3-2 overtime loss to the Rangers on the Garden ice, but he also played marvelously at times in a head-to-head battle with the over heavyweight title fighter in the East.
It took three shots at Rask in rapid fire succession right at the end of the overtime session for Marian Gaborik to finally break through, and there really wasnt much else the Bs goaltender could have done to escape to the shootout.
They were great saves by him. I think it frustrates him because he thought he grabbed the puck, but it kept popping up in the same spot, said Rich Peverley. Three chances, and maybe four, and they finally got that last one.
But that didnt stop the excitable Rask from emotionally slamming his blocker down like a battle axe on the crossbar after the rebound goal had eluded.
Rask was still flapping his arms around animatedly as he skated off in the background behind a Rangers group slapping each other on the back following the victory, and was no less emotional in the postgame locker room.
Yeahit was two rebounds. It hit my glove twice, but ahthats what sucks the most. Three seconds? Expletive, said Rask. Somebody liked it, I guess. It was a pretty thrilling end. Not for me, though.
Well expletive, I mean three seconds left it sucks. Youre pretty riled when that happens. I broke my stick. I had success doing that. Sometimes I cant break em, but this time, I broke it. Thats something positive out of it.
So at least Rask has his stick-breaking ability going for him.
Claude Julien knew his goaltender had done enough to earn a win while making 30 saves against a heavy Rangers attack through 60 minutes and nearly the entire overtime session. Clearly Rask might have been able to stop Ryan Callahans blast to the short side as the first goal of the game, but the Finnish netminder had his team in a position for a shootout win.
That all changed when Andrew Ferences charging penalty handed the Rangers a five-minute man advantage during the overtime session, and Rask along with his Bs defenders were strictly in survival mode. They won the face-off in their own zone, but couldnt clear the puck to the other end of the ice in a move that might have saved their bacon.
Its a game of inches and we also won the draw, said Claude Julien. If that puck makes it down the other end of the ice, were probably going into a shootout. But they had a few whacks at it, and the guy who scored Gaborik usually knows in that area what to do with the puck.
So even if Rask is now second in the NHL with a 1.67 goals against average and found himself on the losing end of a Bs statement game, there are positives. He still leads the NHL with a .947 save percentage despite allowing three goals to the Rangers, and he can break sticks in a fit of pique with the best of them.