Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

Bruins 3, Lightning 2: It all (finally) comes together for a Tuukka Rask win

Ty Anderson
November 30, 2017 - 12:18 am

It’s been said by some that the Bruins play with a noticeably different (read as: sluggish and listless) pace with Tuukka Rask in net instead of Anton Khudobin.

No matter your stance on Rask as a No. 1 goalie, the numbers would actually back that up to a degree, at least when you’re talking about the goal support and number of ‘response’ goals once goaltender has been gifted over the other this season.

But the B’s put an end to that discussion on Wednesday, along with Rask’s four-game losing streak, as they defeated the NHL-best Lightning by a 3-2 final at TD Garden.

“Obviously we played a pretty good game in front of [Rask], but they’re one of the best offensive teams in the league,” Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said of the B’s effort in the win. “They’re [in] first place for a reason, so they had their push and they got their chances. When they did, [Rask] made a lot of great saves. He definitely kept us in there at times when they were making their push, and great job by him.”

Knowing the Lightning arrived to Boston late last night, and on the second leg of a traveling back-to-back, the Bruins simply pounced on the Bolts. In what finished as a 19-shot period for the Black and Gold (with just five from the Lightning), the Bruins were rewarded with a goal from Charlie McAvoy at the 7:27 mark, and scored their second when Riley Nash absolutely sniped a shot through Andrei Vasilevskiy at the 17:13 mark.

“I think that’s one of the periods you want to have,” Zdeno Chara admitted after the win, the club’s fifth in their last six games. “You want to establish going into the game, have a good start. And for the most part we were able to do that at home.”

The Bruins then dealt with an agitated Lightning group’s rough stuff -- Cedric Paquette obliterated Krug into the boards on a reckless hit and then beat the bag out of Frank Vatrano when Vatrano tried to confront him -- and struck once more.

This time it was from the previously bludgeoned, as Krug smashed a one-timer through Vasilevskiy, and extended the B’s lead to three just 25:59 into the game.

“Obviously it was a big goal, the way the game turned out,” Krug, with 12 points in his last 11 games, acknowledged. “But as far as momentum swings in the game, I think [Vatrano] did a great job stepping in there sticking up for his teammates, doing his thing. We were able to get out there and get one for him, and I give him a lot of credit for that.”

It was then that the Bruins seemingly had the Lightning buried.

But the Bolts responded with an Andrej Sustr goal through traffic at the midway point of the period, and nearly struck in the final moment of the middle stanza before Rask stepped up and delivered a game-changing stop on the lethal Nikita Kucherov.

“We talk about the goaltender needing to make saves and then the team playing well in front of him and that’s where it got away from us, so that’s where he helped himself big time tonight,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said when asked about the stop on Kucherov. “That’s what we need. It’s an imperfect game; we’re not going to be mistake free every night. We’d like to correct some of those things, especially with a lead, but he was really good then, and I’m sure it affected his confidence too between periods – it has to when you make big saves. I mean, that’s what you’re paid to do, right, so.”

“Well those are the saves the people expect you to make, and you talk about after the game that, ‘You should have saved that and keep the lead,’ and now you talk that it was a timely save,” said Rask. “So it’s something that you always do, you want to do, and you try to do, and hopefully more often than not you actually save those.”

But when the Bolts scored just 2:10 off a beautiful power-play finish from Steven Stamkos, there was not a sense of clenching from the Bruins.

They flatlined, yes, with just four shots on goal in the final frame. But it never felt as if the Bruins were petering out of control and that Rask was going to let this one slip.

It also spoke to just how important that third goal -- which is something that the Bruins, while winners at the end of the day, failed to grab in their quick and dominant start over the Penguins last Friday -- was for this club and for the 30-year-old Rask.

It finally felt as if the stars had aligned, with offensive support and with Rask up for the challenge in his first back-to-back start in almost a month, setting the B’s up for a win.

“I think at some point as a goalie, you need wins,” said Cassidy. “Was this the time? Probably. There’s a lot of chatter lately. So for him to step up and get it done, and for us to play well in front of him – not have to stand on his head, that’s the other thing; I thought we were very good defensively for the most part. Provided some offense.”

And Rask, with the Bruins hemmed in their zone for the final few minutes of play, and with tired bodies moving in and out of the B’s defensive zone, made the one extra save. He made more than one, actually, with late-game chances from some of the Lightning's best, and with the B's straight-up exhausted in their own zone. 

“He’s a good goalie, we’ve said that all along, and tonight we got three for him, he made the big save – everything we talked about,” said Cassidy. “He made those big saves and we got him the extra goal and he got the extra saves.”

“I need it,” Rask, now 4-8-2 on the year, admitted when asked if he hopes that this is the beginning of a hot streak for him. “I need it, but it was good to see, there was a post-and-out today. That’s always a positive. So, enjoy the little things I guess, because you know, so many times it hits my heel and goes in, and today it didn’t.”

Concluded Cassidy: “I think [Rask]’s going to feel good about it and sleep well tonight.”

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