BOSTON -- Could it be that Tuukka Rask is mortal after all?
The Boston Bruins goaltender had turned in a superhuman performance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs prior to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night at TD Garden. Rask had surrendered one goal to the Chicago Blackhawks in his prior two games and had a shutout streak of 122:26 dating to the second period of Game 2. With his performance through three games, he had taken over the League lead in save percentage (.946) and goals-against average (1.64) for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
GAA: 1.83 | SVP: 0.941
Michal Handzus snapped Rask's shutout streak at 129:14 with a shorthanded goal 6:48 into the game, and Brent Seabrook scored on the last of the 47 shots Rask faced in the Blackhawks' 6-5 overtime victory that evened the best-of-7 series 2-2 heading back to United Center for Game 5 Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
The six goals were the most he's allowed in 33 postseason games.
"They got a lot of shots through and a lot of second opportunities," Rask said. "If you let in six goals as a goalie, you can't be satisfied. But as a team I didn't think it was our best game either."
There were goals of all sorts against Rask. Handzus scored on a clean 2-on-1. Jonathan Toews scored on a tip-in to make it 2-1. Marcus Kruger scored on a 2-on-1 after Rask made the initial stop; the Blackhawks forward showed amazing body control to stay in position to bury the rebound.
Then there were the two rebound goals. Patrick Kane's came at 8:41 of the second period and put the Blackhawks up 3-1. Patrick Sharp's came on the power play at 11:19 just as a third-period 5-on-3 was becoming a 5-on-4 with the expiration of Jaromir Jagr's penalty.
Had the two rebound goals been the only two ricochets off Rask all night, he could have been forgiven. But those were two of the many -- probably more rebounds than Rask had allowed in the prior two games combined -- that the Blackhawks buried.
However, Rask didn't want to put the entire onus on his rebound control.
"It's not on anybody; it's things that happen," he said. "There's rebounds, the pucks bounce."
Rask can be forgiven for having an off night -- after all, his statistics entering Game 4 were staggering. In addition to his overall shutout streak, he had a home shutout streak that reached 193:16 (snapping a playoff franchise record set in 1969) that was broken by Handzus' goal. Earlier in the playoffs he set a franchise postseason record with 149:36 of shutout hockey.
The Bruins weren't exactly their usual tidy selves in front of him. Matched up against a Chicago team desperate to not go down 3-1 in the series and sparked by the return of forward Marian Hossa from an upper-body injury that kept him out of Game 3, the Bruins did little to resist the Blackhawks' barrage.
There was traffic in front, there were speedy entries into the Boston zone, and there were ill-advised pinches, like the one defenseman Dennis Seidenberg made prior to Kruger's goal.
"It would've been nice to help him out a little bit," Seidenberg said. "He's been great the past few games and he [has] been great tonight. But if he doesn't get the support, it's tough to stop pucks, right? So we have to be better for him, and everybody knows that."
Bruins coach Claude Julien rarely criticizes his goaltender and stuck to that philosophy after Game 4.
"I don't evaluate the players publicly here. I look at our whole team and tell you our whole team was average tonight," Julien said. "You can take what you want from that. I think we can be a lot better. We have an opportunity to be better next game. Hopefully, if anything, that makes us even hungrier for the next game."
It's hard to say who was to blame on Seabrook's winner. Toews was battling Zdeno Chara in front. There might've been a screen, although the Chicago center thought he pivoted and cleared room for Rask to see the shot from the right point. Rask said he didn't pick up the puck until the last instant.
It didn't matter -- the puck landed just inside the left post, the Blackhawks won, the series is tied, and it will be up to Rask and the Bruins to bounce back.
The Bruins have faith Rask will return to form in Game 5.
"We know that he's going to be phenomenal," defenseman Johnny Boychuk said. "He always has been, and he will continue to be phenomenal, and he gives us a chance to win every night. I'm glad to have him back there."