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Former top pick wins NHL debut

Tuesday, 11.20.2007 / 11:50 PM / Game of the Night

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

Bruins forward Chuck Kobasew and teammate Glen Metropolit celebrate Kobasew's game winning goal in Boston's 4-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.   
For the first two periods Tuesday night, Toronto Maple Leafs fans were probably feeling good about the fact that the franchise traded its 2005 first-round pick — goaltender Tuukka Rask — for Andrew Raycroft in the summer of 2006.
   
By the end of the night, they may have had second thoughts.
   
The Leafs blew a 2-0 lead by allowing three goals in the third period and Rask made 30 saves in his NHL debut as the Boston Bruins skated away with a 4-2 victory at the Air Canada Centre.
   
Chuck Kobasew broke a 2-2 tie with 3:31 remaining in regulation when he fired a wrist shot from the slot past Leafs’ goalie Vesa Toskala ( 700K) — whom Toronto acquired this past summer from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for three draft picks. Kobasew also hit the empty net with 26.7 seconds remaining to give the Bruins their second win over the Leafs in less than a week. 
   
Rask recalled the night he was dealt to the Bruins.

'It was during the biggest midsummer party in Finland,'' he said. ''It was 2 a.m., so you can imagine how I felt when they called me. Next day, I was kind of surprised and realized what happened.''
   
Rask and the Bruins left the Leafs surprised by the time the final horn went off.

For almost two periods, it looked like the Leafs might follow Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Ottawa with another shutout. Toronto led 2-0 when captain Mats Sundin scored at 15:36 of the middle period ( 700K ) after Bryan McCabe had broken a scoreless tie with a power-play goal 15:10 into the game. ( 700K )
   
''A game like tonight, where we are up two goals and let Boston get back into the game, it's certainly very disappointing,'' Sundin said. ''It was an important game for us.''
   
Indeed it was, and it was one the Leafs let slip away.

The Bruins cut the deficit in half when Phil Kessel scored a power-play goal with 47.9 seconds remaining in the second period ( 700K ). With Nik Antropov in the box for holding, Kessel one-timed a feed from Kobasew past Toskala to make it 2-1, ending the goaltender’s shutout streak at 141:47.

P.J. Axelsson tied the game with his first goal of the season at 9:52 of the third period ( 700K ) when he took a pass from Marc Savard and one-timed it past Toskala, capping a perfect passing play that left the goaltender with no chance.
   
''The frustration now is trying to get a good solid defensive game out of our team,'' Toronto coach Paul Maurice said. ''We give up 25 shots, not a whole lot, but now we're not generating much offense at the other end.''
   
Rask showed signs that he can be a mainstay in the NHL down the road. He made a tremendous pair of saves on Darcy Tucker; one from point-blank range and the other on a breakaway. ( 700K )

Rask, who won seven of nine appearances with a 2.10 goals-against average with Providence in the American Hockey League this season, was asked to compare the two leagues.
   
“It’s not huge, but it’s a difference,” Rask said. “Players can shoot much better, but it’s not a huge difference.”
   
Rask made the final 10 of his 30 saves in the third period to secure a victory in his NHL debut, against an opponent that he admittedly was pumped up to play against. In the end, it made everything just a little bit sweeter.
   
“Of course it means a lot,'' Rask said of beating the Leafs. ''It was fun to play, to show them that I'm good enough to play at this level.''
   
How long he remains at the NHL level remains to be seen. With Manny Fernandez still recovering from a knee injury, Rask, at the very least, showed he can be a capable backup for Tim Thomas, who has faced a barrage of shots in recent starts. Thomas had also started the previous 10 games for the Bruins. Fernandez, however, could be activated as early as Wednesday.
   
“It’s not up to me,” Rask responded when asked how long he thinks he’ll remain with the big club. “I play where I play and try to do my best every day.”

Material from wire services was used in this report.
Quote of the Day

The old saying in hockey is 'weather the storm.' I put the notion in their heads that we don't want to weather the storm, we want to push just as hard and matched their work ethic. I thought our guys exceeded that in the first period.

— Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins after their loss to the Nashville Predators on Thursday
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