MONTREAL – Tuukka Rask had been the best goalie in the NHL for the entire first month of the season.
It’s why he was leading the league in both goals against average and save percentage entering the month of November, and part of why the Bruins were atop the NHL as a team.
Unfortunately, it would be pretty much impossible for Rask to keep up the pace of his great start in October and that’s how things played out in his worst game of the season on Tuesday night in Boston’s 5-4 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.
It was bad timing as Rask was one of the few fresh Boston players on the ice as the Bruins were playing their third game in four days, and second of a back-to-back after digging deep to come back against the Penguins 24 hours prior in Boston.
Rask gave up all five goals on 31 shot attempts to the Habs to drop all the way to third in the league in goals against average (1.88 GAA) and fourth in save percentage (.936), and saved some of his worst for last as Habs D-man Ben Chiarot beat him for the game-winner in the third on a routine wrist shot from the face-off circle that Rask simply missed with his glove hand.
“I saw it,” said Rask. “It hit my glove and then bounced off my leg and into the middle of the net.”
Combine that with a couple of soft goals allowed in the first period as well when Rask allowed two goals in 31 seconds to Montreal after the Bruins had tied the game early, and it was the Boston netminder’s worst night of the season by a long shot.
“For me it was,” said Rask, when asked if it felt like a battle during the game. “It was one of those nights where instead of a hockey puck you feel like it’s a golf ball out there. I just wasn’t tracking it well, so it was a tough night for me. I thought we battled well and we could have easily won the game. But I couldn’t really make a save.
“It’s just one of those nights that you’re not tracking it well. That’s it.”
The good news for Rask is that he’ll get a chance to right the ship this weekend with a couple of games, though it wouldn’t be surprising if backup Jaroslav Halak gets the call against the Red Wings on Friday after Rask spit the bit against the Habs. It sure sounds like Rask will get the benefit of the doubt from the Bruins coaching staff after a great first month of the season when the B’s No. 1 netminder usually struggles out of the starting gate.
“Yeah there was, and it was tonight. He wasn’t that sharp,” said Cassidy, when asked if there was bound to be a night when Rask wasn’t as good as he’d been in the first month of the season. “We battled back so it would have been nice to get that last save, but he’s human. He’s been really good for us, so that’s going to happen for everybody.”
The Bruins have to hope that their goaltender can bounce back to superhuman mode pretty quickly, though, given how important elite level goaltending is to the overall success of their hockey club this season.
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