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Toronto, ON -- The Boston Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs, 4-2, Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Rookie goalie Tuukka Rask made 30 saves and former Boston College forward Chuck Kobasew added two goals, including the game winning tally, to give the B's a 4-3-2 record in nine straight divisional contests.
Ward congratulates Rask.
"Tuukka was outstanding," said Boston head coach Claude Julien. "I was really impressed with how poised he was coming into this building against the team that drafted him -- he had all the reasons in the world to be nervous.
"But he definitely didn't show it out there."
Before the game, the Black & Gold had surprised everyone announcing that they would start former Maple Leafs property, turned goaltending prodigy, Tuukka Rask, against the Buds in what would be a sold out Air Canada Centre (19,441). After all, Boston's Tim Thomas continues to be amongst the league leaders in most goaltending categories -- including minutes and shots against.
As such, and with Thomas' would-be goaltending partner Manny Fernandez on the shelf with a knee injury, the young Finnish netminder, obtained in exchange for Calder Trophy (rookie of the year award) winner Andrew Raycroft before the 2006-07 season, was recalled on Monday, having played in Providence (AHL) on Sunday.
Despite the hoopla surrounding the keeper's first game in "The Show," there was not much to write home to Boston about during much of the first 10 minutes of the contest -- except, of course, Rask's first NHL shot against (a save versus Darcy Tucker with 14:30 on the clock).
Toronto Maple Leafs' Kyle Wellwood, right, takes the puck away from Boston Bruins' Petteri Nokelainen, of Finland, during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Toronto, Tuesday Nov. 20, 2007. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Adrian Wyld)
However, as the crowd warmed up in the big rink in hockey's heartland, so did the Leafs.
With the Leafs on the power play, and after one of his defenders went down, a puck deflected off another member of the Bruins and bounced though Rask's butterfly positioning. And so, the Leaf's Bryan McCabe is in the books as the first goal given up by Tuukka, at 15:10 of the first period.
Undaunted, the Boston goalie came up huge against Tucker late in the stanza, stopping the Leafs forward on a breakaway, and then down low with just over a minute to go in the first frame. That kept the score 1-0 Toronto going into the break, and kept the B's in the game.
The second period started the same way the first period started: S-L-O-W-L-Y.
However, with Toronto dictating much of the play, and in true storybook fashion, Rask became the pivotal figure in his first game. In the second period he stopped several strong Maple Leaf scoring chances and stood tall for the Bruins, before Mats Sundin finally beat the youngster with a knuckling puck off of his veteran stick at 15:36.
As per usual, the B's rebounded. When they were awarded a power play late in the second, super soph Phil Kessel scored his 7th goal of the season at 19:12 to make the score 2-1 going into the second intermission.
And as the third period developed, it was clear that Rask was not out of place on NHL ice. And although the Bruins offense continued to have trouble igniting, the young keeper continuously kept the Bruins within shooting distance of a win.
Boston Bruins' P.J. Axelsson, from Sweden, celebrates his game-tying goal as Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Vesa Toskala, from Finland, and Toronto's Jiri Tlutsy, from the Czech Republic, watch the puck enter the net during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Toronto on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2007. The Boston Bruins came back from a two-goal deficit to win 4-2. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Adrian Wy
Adding a happy ending to Tuukka's tale, Boston's P.J. Axelsson, generally known for his defensive abilities, quieted the ACC. The veteran Swedish forward was in the right place at the right time when linemate Glen Murray corralled a puck at the Toronto blue line, passed to center Marc Savard, who then made a brilliant pass to a wide open Axelsson.
P.J. deposited the puck into a yawning net behind Toronto's Vesa Toskala at 9:52.
Following Axelsson's goal, the Bruins continued to press the Leafs and as the period past it's halfway point, the momentum swung permanently in the Bostonian's favor.
Sparkplug forward Kobasew, a trade deadline pickup late last season for Boston, continued to show his value to the club as he scored his eighth of the campaign past Toskala at 16:29. Kobasew then iced the game when, with Toronto employing an extra attacker in lieu of their goaltender, he shot the puck into an open net to ice the Bruins win at 19:33.
'It was a play along the boards," said Kobasew of the game-winner. "I was trying to get a shot off and it looked as if (it wobbled)."
After the game, Rask admitted that he did have some nerves beforehand.
"Of course, a little bit," he said. "When you play your first NHL game you are nervous.
"But when I stepped on the ice it was gone."
So were any doubts as to Rask's ability.
Boston returns to practice in Wilmington, Mass. on Wednesday morning.