BOSTON -- It may not have been quite as bad as Tuukka Rask made it out to be, but the Bruins goaltender knew he wasn’t good enough in Game 5.
Rask allowed four goals on 13 shots before being yanked in favor of Anton Khudobin as the Bruins fell behind 4-1 in what wound up being a 4-3 loss Saturday night at TD Garden, sending the Stanley Cup playoff series back to Toronto for Game 6 on Monday. He was badly outplayed by Maple Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen, who made 42 strong, clutch saves at the other end of the ice.
The Bruins entered the game with a 3-1 series lead and a chance to close out the Leafs, but the players in front of Rask weren’t much better, getting off to a sluggish start in the first period that ultimately doomed them despite a massive third-period push. Still, it was the goalie who faced the music most directly after the defeat.
For someone who's noticeably sidestepped personal responsibility for goals allowed at times in his career, Rask, the last Bruins player to speak to the media after the game, took it all on his shoulders.
It was pointed self-criticism and a real show of leadership and accountability from Rask, who clearly wasn’t okay with the way he played.
LEAFS 4, BRUINS 3
“I probably could’ve stopped more pucks with my eyes closed," he said. "That’s about it. It’s on me . . .
“I felt good [going into the game]. Sometimes you track pucks better than other days. Today, as you can probably tell, I wasn’t tracking the puck very well and it happens sometimes."
He didn't get a lot of help; the Bruins allowed a couple of goals in close to the Boston net in a sleepy first period. But it was the second period where things really fell apart .
David Backes scored a power-play goal that cut Toronto’s lead to 2-1 and got the fans back into the game. Then both the Bruins and Rask faltered in the next minute.
A bit of a sloppy line change and some poor coverage on a transition play gave speedy Tyler Bozak a quality chance, and the Toronto forward managed to beat Rask one-on-one. It completely wiped out the momentum Boston had been generating leading up to its first goal, and it sucked the energy right out of the building.
That goal, scored 51 seconds after Backes had put the B's on the board, was on Rask, and it was a big part of what led coach Bruce Cassidy to pull him when he allowed a power-play goal to James van Riemsdyk just 1:19 later.
“I didn’t think [Rask] had it tonight, so we went with Anton," said Cassidy. "And then there’s always [the fact that a goalie change] gets the rest of the team’s attention, as well. So, it’s both [things].
“I don’t want to measure, or quantify what percentage of each, but clearly if I thought he was on then he wouldn’t have got pulled. I guess I’ll put it that way.”
Rask’s save percentage for the series against the Leafs dropped to a “meh” .904 after the Game 5 debacle, and it was -- unfortunately -- right on the heels of a magnificent 31-save effort in Boston’s big Game 4 road win in Toronto. That was a big performance, in which Rask was justifiably prasied for coming through in a key playoff moment, but just 48 hours later he was fitting himself for goat horns.
That’s the life of a goalie in the playoffs.
“Yeah, that’s the way it is," he said. "You play good, you kind of put it behind you; you play bad, you put it behind you. You just stay even no matter what happens."
He's clearly ready to put Saturday behind him.
"[We’re] moving on to the next one and we’ll finish it out in Toronto,” said Rask.
And as for Saturday?
"That’s hockey. Sometimes you’re awesome, sometimes you’re not.”
In Game 5, Rask was not. Now he and the Bruins will get two more cracks at reversing that in a best-of-seven series where they still have the upper hand, even after Saturday's big miss.