The NHL's regular-season leader in goals-against average and save percentage carried the Bruins within one win of their first trip to the conference finals since 1992 when he stopped 34 shots to lead his team in a 4-1 victory on Wednesday in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Philadelphia Flyers.
"I think (Rask's) been really good this series, but (Wednesday) he was by far the best player on the ice," Flyers forward Danny Briere said. "No doubt about it. When your goalie steals a game like that for you, it goes a long way. What can I say, he was good. He made a lot of key saves and we were buzzing, especially in second period."
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Indeed. The Flyers were pretty industrious in the second, throwing 15 shots on Rask -- but none went into the net. Rask fought off traffic in front and did it with a style and grace usually seen from a 10-year veteran. He stopped all 15 shots in the second and eight more in the third -- when it almost seemed as though the Flyers had had enough. The fans certainly did, as with just under four minutes remaining, the Wachovia Center started emptying rather quickly.
Rask was perfect after surrendering a goal to Arron Asham 2:32 into the game as the Bruins beat the Flyers for the third game in a row to move within a victory of a sweep. They'll try to send the Flyers home for the summer by winning Game 4 on Friday night.
To stay alive, the Flyers will have to solve Rask, who was in the zone on this night.
"It was just one of those games when you see a lot of shots, you feel comfortable, you're not making any extra moves and you're standing there and everything seems to hit you," said Rask, who is now 7-2 in his first playoff spring. "It was a defensive win for sure. We got the lead in the first, protected the net and kept them away so it was a great win."
The Bruins also helped Task's cause by blocking 21 shots -- five by rookie Johnny Boychuk -- and winning 58 percent of their face-offs.
"This is the time of year where guys are willing to sacrifice everything they've got," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "The team we're playing tonight has got a pretty good player (Ian Laperriere) that's out of their lineup that did the same thing. He tried to block a shot and got it in the head. That just goes to show what playoffs are all about. Guys are willing to do whatever it takes."
The odds aren't against the Flyers becoming only the third team in NHL history to win a series after losing the first three games. The Bruins are 16-0 when leading a best-of-3 series 3-0. The Flyers have lost all six series which they have faced an 0-3 deficit.
"The first thing on the agenda is getting a win in the column," Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said when asked how his team could come back from a deficit overcome by only the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs and the 1975 New York Islanders.
Laviolette's problem is that the Flyers did a lot of things right -- they took their first lead in three games, controlled the play for two periods and produced some quality scoring chances while limited Boston to 20 shots.
"They did a good job of getting in the way," Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger said. "In the first two periods we had a lot of shots, but we didn't have enough traffic in front of them. Like we said before, goalies this time of year, you've got to get ahead of them, shoot pucks and control rebounds."
The Flyers had 71 shot attempts at Rask; the Bruins took only 31 at Brian Boucher. In the end, however, the result was the same.
"I thought we threw a lot of pucks at the net, and it seemed like we had chances," Boucher said. "Credit to Rask, he played pretty well. It was a 2-1 game, and then they get a real lucky break on the third goal (by Mark Recchi), and that's all she wrote."
After spotting the Flyers the opening goal of the game, the Bruins quickly got goals by Blake Wheeler and Miroslav Satan 1:34 apart to take a 2-1 lead just 5:45 into the game.
"I really liked the way we responded," Julien said. "They got some early momentum there, got the crowd behind them. For us to come right back and score was and quiet everything down was huge, and shortly afterward take the lead. I thought our guys battled through a tough first period."
Recchi then knocked home a power-play rebound 2:30 into the third period on a puck that deflected off Pronger's shoulder and hit Wheeler before caroming right to the veteran forward, who was left with a wide-open net. Patrice Bergeron hit the empty net with 1:52 remaining.
The Bruins won without the services of second-line center David Krejci and rookie defenseman Adam McQuaid, both of whom were lost to injuries in the opening six minutes of the first period. Julien said both were being evaluated, and that Krejci had been taken to a hospital. Reports are Krejci has an upper-body injury.
"I think (Rask's) been really good this series, but (Wednesday) he was by far the best player on the ice" -- Danny Briere
The Flyers connected for the opening goal of the game for the first time in this series when Asham ripped home a shot from the right circle, finishing off a 2-on-1 break with Claude Giroux. The puck ticked off Rask's left glove and just inside the right post to give Philadelphia a 1-0 lead at 2:32. It was around that time when McQuaid was mysteriously injured when he bumped into his own teammate while going off on a line change.
The Bruins needed just 1:21 to get even. Wheeler scored his first of the postseason off a nifty tip in the slot while fighting off a check from Lukas Krajicek. Bruins defenseman Matt Hunwick took a shot-pass from the left point that Wheeler deflected between Brian Boucher and the left post.
Krejci was then forced to leave the game after colliding with Flyers captain Mike Richards at his own blue line at 5:40 -- but not before earning the secondary assist on Boston's go-ahead goal. Satan, the Bruins' offensive star in these playoffs, was sent in alone by Milan Lucic against Boucher and scored his team-high fifth of the playoffs with a quick deke and a backhander at 5:45. Satan got the feed from Lucic at the Flyers blue line after Lucic picked up a feed by Krejci an instant before Richards leveled him.
Satan, a 14-year-veteran, extended his points-streak to six games -- he has 5 goals and 4 assist over that stretch.
Shift of the night: Before leaving the game after taking a tremendous hit from Flyers captain Mike Richards at the Boston blue line, David Krejci earned the secondary assist on his team's go-ahead goal at 5:45 of the first period. Miroslav Satan, who has been a thorn in the side to the Flyers in the postseason, took a pass from Milan Lucic at the Flyers' blue line and broke in alone on Brian Boucher. Satan made a quick deke and tucked in a backhander for his team-leading fifth goal of the playoffs for a 2-1 lead. Krejci slipped a pass to Lucic an instant before being leveled by Richards.