NEW YORK, NY - Tuukka Rask's night out in New York City started with three quick stops in the first two minutes, and ended with 43 saves on 44 shots in the Bruins' 2-1 win over the New York Rangers.
It was a grind for the group in front of him, on their heels for much of the game, and playing with just five defensemen for the final 58 minutes.
Dennis Seidenberg had left after just one shift at Madison Square Garden, and did not return with a lower body injury.
"They came at us hard and Tuukka stood tall for us early," said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien, who gave Rask the back-to-back nod, his second of the season.
While the Bruins grinded out most of the night in their own zone, Rask made his brink job look effortless.
"We were able to hang on but a lot of credit goes to Tuukka," said Julien.
"He just felt it tonight. I thought he was poised, he was square to all the pucks. I don’t know that he made a lot of things look real complicated, but there was a lot of pucks thrown at the net, deflections and pucks going everywhere."
"On their side, they’re probably talking about not getting a break and if I was them, I’d probably be saying the same thing." because they did throw a lot of pucks at the net.
"It’s one of those things where you take the win and take it for what it’s worth – it was a big win for us – and we go home and get some rest and get ready for St. Louis."
The Rangers threw 85 pucks towards Rask. Forty-three hit the mark, 18 were shot or tipped wide, and 23 were blocked by the Bruins stepping into shooting lanes.
Rask made it look easy, but he had to remain composed. He didn't catch a break all game.
Rask's nightmare is a game facing less shots and spurts of pressure, but this wasn't exactly ideal, either.
Still, it was better than the alternative.
"Yeah, exactly," said the netminder. "I like to face more shots than less obviously, but it’s a back-to-back game and it goes over 40 so you kind of feel fatigue out there, [and it's kind of tough at times] but I like it more than less."
The 43 saves mark a career-high for Rask. Early on, he set the tone for the game by thwarting a penalty shot attempt from Rangers forward Chris Kreider just 6:16 into the first.
Kreider got in behind the Bruins' defense, with Johnny Boychuk getting a stick in to knock him down with just eight seconds left on the B's penalty kill.
Kreider would send eight more attempts towards Rask, none that made it past. Rask's confidence often makes him fearless to come out and challenge shooters, cutting down their angles.
He had to make 17 saves, before Shawn Thornton put the Bruins up 1-0 at 4:58 into the second, cleanly beating Henrik Lundqvist high glove after a rush from the defensive zone.
Then, with David Krejci in the box, Daniel Paille made it 2-0 at the 11:30 mark, banking a pass to himself off the boards and racing in shorthanded. He made Lundqvist bite, before slipping a backhander through the 2012-13 Vezina winner's five-hole.
The opportunistic offense from the pair of Merlot Liners was all the Bruins would need at that end of the ice.
"Obviously, they came hard, they played an extremely good game," said Thornton, who scored his third of the season. "Tuukka, he played unbelievable and held us in there. I don’t know how many breakaways he had, including a penalty shot. So I think if it wasn’t for him again, it could have been a completely different outcome."
Rask stopped everything he saw, and nearly everything he didn't. The only shot that beat him looked like it had a slight change-up off Boychuk trying to stand up to the shot from Derick Brassard.
It came on the Rangers' power play, just 1:01 after Paille's tally. But it was all that would map fit past.
"When we weren’t able to get the speed that we wanted and they were pressuring us very strong, he stood strong playing back-to-back like he did," said Paille. "He was definitely solid."
"So we have to be thankful for someone like that behind us."
Rask knew after the team's 4-1 win in Raleigh over the Hurricanes on Monday that he would get the start again Tuesday in New York. He came in feeling fresh off the back-to-back, though, and that helped his cause.
He needed to stand tall until the end. With three minutes left, New York defenseman fired twice from the right point. One hit Rask's right post. One deflected just wide. His presence was enough.
The Rangers' transition game kept creating odd-man rushes and breakaway opportunities throughout the night.
Midway through the second, it appeared the Bruins might be down another blueliner, when Matt Bartkowski received a heavy hit from Ryan Callahan near the boards. He shook it off on the bench, and finished out the game.
"We didn’t really do a good enough job until the third period. We were down to five D’s and so it was about getting pucks out at one point," said Julien.
"It’s huge. You need that. It’s a sign of a good team and the character we have in this room," said Rask, of the team stepping up, with the loss of Seidenberg early.
Zdeno Chara played more than half of the game, leading the pack with 31:27 in ice time.
"Especially on a back-to-back night, everybody’s playing a lot of minutes and you could see they were getting tired but we never gave up and at the end of the night, we got rewarded."
The Bruins have now won six of seven games, and five with Rask between the pipes.
The netminder had to be prompted that was the case.
"Oh yeah, yeah, it’s good," remarked Cool Hand Tuuk. "We obviously like more winning than losing."
"And the way that we’ve been playing has gotten better all the time; maybe despite that Ottawa game there. But we’re heading in the right direction and we’re getting rewarded, so it’s good."
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