BOSTON (CBS) – Here’s how much Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask had to carry his team to victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first round series in Ottawa on Wednesday.
In the span of six seconds in the second period Bruins forward David Pastrnak had a breakaway but didn’t get a shot on net, and Ottawa forward Derick Brassard had a breakaway that required a right pad save by Rask.
Pastrnak’s ineptitude on that breakaway foreshadowed the almost-25-minute hiatus the Bruins’ offense took later in the game. However, Rask kept the Bruins within one goal with a performance worthy of every penny the Bruins pay him, and Frank Vatrano and Brad Marchand’s third-period goals made sure Rask was victorious 2-1.
The Bruins and Senators will play Game 2 on Saturday.
If the Bruins want to maximize their odds of bringing home a 2-0 series lead, they might want to make life a tad easier on Rask. Boston went 24:49 between shots on net from late in the first period until early in the third period. Their shot-less second period was their second in a playoff game in franchise history.
While the Bruins’ skaters snoozed, Rask starred. He stopped 11 of the 12 shots he faced in the middle period, with only Bobby Ryan’s second-effort wrist shot got wound up in the back of the net with little resistance from Adam McQuaid and Zdeno Chara. When Ryan set up MacArthur for a one-timer right in front of the Boston goal, Rask flashed the left pad.
In the third period, Rask was at it again, including a save on a deflected Mike Hoffman shot during an Ottawa 6-on-5 with 1:09 to play.
Some of Rask’s best saves were during the 0-0 first period even before the Brassard breakaway. Ryan was robbed on a point-blank redirection at 12:35, Tommy Wingels’ backhand shot from the dot went into Rask’s glove to rest and Brassard had a point-blank chance in the first half of the period.
On paper, Rask made just 26 saves. But the quality of the saves made it seem like he had double that amount. And the Bruins desperately needed their goalie to steal this game. The night started out with David Krejci getting scratched at the last minute. The starting lineup wound up with eight players, including two defensemen, making their NHL playoff debut.
As flawless as Charlie McAvoy played in his NHL debut, it certainly helped his confidence to have a wall-like Rask behind him. And when Colin Miller went down with a leg injury and left the Bruins with five defensemen for the third period, they clearly couldn’t afford to have anything less than Rask at his best.
It’s hard to believe that we’re a little more than three weeks removed from the days of the Jimmy Garoppolo side of the peanut gallery declaring Anton Khudobin should be the Bruins’ No. 1 goaltender. All Rask has done since he missed the March 25 win at the New York Islanders is go 5-0-1 with five goals allowed in those six games.
The Bruins wouldn’t be in the playoffs if it wasn’t for Rask’s ascension to Vezina Trophy-worthy play, and they wouldn’t be up 1-0 in this series were it not for Rask’s heroics. Whatever “treatment” Rask received that weekend the Bruins went to Brooklyn without him — whether it was physical or mental — worked.
Maybe someone from that Khudobin contingent was in charge of picking the three stars in Ottawa. Somehow Rask wasn’t among the three names. Nonetheless, Rask did something better than get his name on the score sheet an extra time — he nearly singlehandedly won a playoff game.
Now it’s up to his teammates to provide more support to give the Bruins a chance to win this series and maybe even close it out early enough to get Rask and the rest a rest.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @MattKalman.