Six years later, Tuukka Rask comes up big in Game 6 of Stanley Cup Final

Evan Marinofsky
June 10, 2019 - 8:14 am

The last time Tuukka Rask found himself in a Game 6 down 3-2 in the Stanley Cup Final, things didn't go well.

Back in 2013 against the Blackhawks, the Bruins were 1:17 from forcing a Game 7 back in Chicago. Then the Blackhawks tied the game and eventually took the lead all in the span of 17 seconds, leaving the Bruins helpless with their season on the line.

The Blackhawks held on to win the Stanley Cup, beginning a chain of unfortunate reactions in Boston. Nathan Horton departed, Tyler Seguin was traded and the Bruins would go on to win just one playoff series in the next four years. Most of all: the narrative that Rask couldn't win in the big game stemmed from that 17-second debacle in Game 6 of the '13 Final. 

That's gone now. 

On Sunday night, Rask found himself and the Bruins down 3-2 in the Cup Final -- the exact situation he was in six years ago. This time, the pressure was even higher with the game taking place on enemy soil. 

Though the final score was 5-1 Bruins, the B's only led 1-0 heading into the third period. For most of the first two periods, it felt as though the Bruins were hanging on for dear life. Rask finished with 28 saves on 29 shots. 

The magnitude of some of his saves were greater than his final numbers indicated. 

"He's been our best player," said Charlie McAvoy of Rask. "He has been all playoffs. We know that when he plays like that to the best of his ability, when we do our jobs in front of him 'cause we've got to help him out, he's going to be there." 

McAvoy played the part of goalie when Alex Pietrangelo's backhander hit the post behind Rask. The Boston University product batted the puck off the goal line and onto Rask's back, saving a sure goal.

"I watched the replay after," said Rask of the hectic play. "It hit the post, then it's bouncing and then Chuckie hit it with his stick. I kind of heard it. I didn't know where it was and I figured it might be somewhere behind me so I sort of corralled it with my hand behind my back. And then it stuck in my pants and fell somewhere. I think Chuckie made a great play to keep it out of the net." 

Need I remind you this was all with the score at 1-0? 

Rask's biggest save of the night came early in the game. With Sean Kuraly in the box for delay of game just 2:15 into the first, the Bruins were already on their heels. The momentum was in the Blues' favor. 

Brayden Schenn got a sweet look right at the top of the crease and, somehow, Rask extended with the right pad and made a sprawling save that set the tone for the Game 6. 

"This playoffs, he's been outstanding," Bruce Cassidy said of his goalie on NESN. "If you look at these Game 6s, he's been lights out every one. In Toronto, in Columbus, in St. Louis now. Good for him. You can't say enough good things about him. He's been solid every night." 

Though Rask played tremendously in those first two Game 6s in this Cup run, neither matched the magnitude of Sunday night. Rask only faced 24 shots in the Game 6 vs. the Maple Leafs in round one and against the Blue Jackets, the season wasn't on the line. 

Yes, 29 isn't that much more than 24. But the Blues had four power plays and had 12 shots with the man-advantage. 

They went 0-for-4. The main reason: Rask. Just like with the Schenn save, Rask bailed the Bruins out when they went to the box time and time again. 

"I think our penalty kill is excellent," said Rask. "We killed that penalty in the first period and that's huge. Last time they scored what, like 30 seconds in? Obviously you don't want that to happen again so I think we weathered the storm pretty good." 

Rask was so good in the 5-1 win that it took the puck barely crossing the line on what first appeared to be another incredible pad save for the Blues to actually save.

With the win in Game 6, Rask became the 19th goalie with 50 playoff wins, and did it with the 10th fewest games. 

Although Rask has yet to win the Cup here in 2019, Sunday's performance was a monkey off the back of some sort. Just six years ago, there was Rask in the same scenario letting in two goals -- that weren't really his fault -- with under 1:17 to play in the third period. 

But this year finds Rask more mature and more experienced. He was great in 2013, but if Sunday night's an indication of anything, it's that he's playing better now. 

And now he has a chance to finish the job Wednesday night.

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