BOSTON -- In the goaltending battle between two former first-round draft picks, Colorado's Semyon Varlamov outdueled Boston's Tuukka Rask Monday afternoon.
In just his second game for Colorado since coming over in an offseason trade with Washington, Varlamov made 30 saves to make sure that Milan Hejduk's third-period goal stood up as the game-winner in a 1-0 victory against the Bruins at TD Garden.
While Varlamov entered the game with pedestrian career numbers against Boston (2.84 goals-against average, .907 save percentage) from his days with the Washington Capitals, he said he used his familiarity with the Garden rink to his advantage.
"Especially with the boards," said Varlamov. "They are more bouncy and I know how they react and whenever they shoot the puck, it just comes back out in front of the goal, so I knew how to deal with that."
The boards didn't come into play on Varlamov's two best saves of the afternoon. Late in the second period, with the game still scoreless, Varlamov flashed his left pad out to deny Brad Marchand's quick backhand shot from in tight.
"I tried to get it up and it was kind of rolling. I couldn't get under it," said Marchand.
Then, while protecting a one-goal lead late in the third, Varlamov came way out of his crease to make a blocker save on Milan Lucic at the end of a 2-on-1 with Nathan Horton.
"I have to do a better job of elevating the puck and making the most of opportunities I get like that," said Lucic, the Bruins' leading goal-scorer last season, who still is looking for his first goal after three games.
Varlamov's stop on Lucic impressed Colorado coach Joe Sacco.
"Just an incredible save. I originally thought that he missed the net and then I come to find out that he (Varlamov) did make a save on it, so obviously that would have been … that was one of the turning points late in the game … it would have tied the game up there," said Sacco. "Our guys deserve a lot of credit for the way we played today. We came in here with a game plan and our young team stuck to it."
Colorado surrendered a first- and a second-round draft pick in 2012 to acquire Varlamov with these types of games in mind. While their offense was frustrated time and again by Rask, Varlamov's play gave the Avs the confidence to keep attacking.
"How he played tonight, it was terrific," said Hejduk. "It's giving us so much confidence. We can go on the offense and create something there."
At the other end, Rask was solid. It was his first appearance in a game that counted since last April 10, when he took a loss at New Jersey in the Bruins' regular-season finale. Rask stopped 35 of 36 shots Monday against the Avs.
The one puck the eluded him crossed the goal line at the 7:57 mark of the third period. After Peter Mueller beat David Krejci clean on a faceoff at the left dot, Jan Hejda played the puck down the wall to Hejduk. The veteran forward let go of a wrist shot from the left dot that grazed Zdeno Chara's shin pad and slid through Rask's pads.
"I saw the guy shooting and then I put my glove where I thought it was going," said Rask. "And then it hit something and went in."
For Hejduk, the goal was the result of a strategy the Avalanche had heading into the game after they were shut out in their opener Saturday against Detroit.
"I just fired it through traffic. That's what we tried to do the whole hockey game. We tried to have somebody in front of the net and so he can't see the pucks. But he was making all the saves," said Hejduk.
Boston's plan this season is to better balance its goaltending split between Rask and Tim Thomas, who played 57 games last season to Rask's 29. Rask went 11-14-2 despite a solid .918 save percentage and 2.67 GAA in 2010-11. He might be off on the right foot this season.
"Plenty of saves and only one goal," Rask said, "so I guess you can look at that in a good way, too, despite the loss."
Added Bruins coach Claude Julien: "He's probably the only bright light on this game today. Had it not been for him this game could have probably been over much sooner than it was. And he kept us in there and gave us a chance and we just didn't respond."
With his team outshot 36-30 and held off the scoreboard by the second-youngest team in the league, Julien will be looking for better efforts when his team plays on the road against Carolina and Chicago this week.
"We got outworked by a team that was a lot more hungry than we were tonight," said Julien. "And throughout the game I felt our team was second on the puck. We're losing the races, and also whenever we got there and got in to battle, they certainly were a lot hungrier than we were. So I think it's one of those games that you hope will give your players the opportunity to realize that what we've talked about since the beginning and every team coming in here and playing us hard is going to happen."