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Backed by Tuukka Rask, Bruins Not Letting Up

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

DETROIT, MI - On Tuesday night, following the Bruins' 3-0 blanking of the Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena that gave them a 2-1 series lead, Shawn Thornton jokingly told Tuukka Rask he should keep the team's "Player of the Game" Jacket.

The netminder had received the "Old-Time Hockey" varsity-style jacket from David Krejci following the team's 4-1 win over Detroit in Game 2, in which he made 34 saves on 35 shots.

Implemented towards the tail end of the regular season, in advance of the 2014 playoffs, the jacket represents the history and tradition behind the Spoked-B, which is celebrating its 90th year. It used to belong to Johnny "Chief" Bucyk.

Whomever receives the jacket, must pass it on after the next win. It has become a ceremonial post-win moment in the locker room during playoffs, only shared by the team.

Tuukka gladly passed it on to Dougie Hamilton Tuesday night at The Joe.

Hamilton's end-to-end rush on a power play in the first period ended with him drawing in three Red Wings, and lasering the puck past Jimmy Howard from the top of the right circle. It marked his first career NHL playoff goal, and served as the eventual game-winner.

"It’s just nice to get one," Hamilton would later tell reporters. "Everyone was playing good, so we just needed to keep pressuring them and that’s what I was trying to do."

And when the Red Wings turned up any kind of pressure - though limited - Rask was there to help subdue it. He stopped all 23 Detroit shots for the shutout. It marked just the second postseason shutout against Detroit in the teams' lifetime series.

"I thought they had some pretty good chances; Tuukka did a great job of standing on his head," said Thornton.

"There were a lot of loose pucks around him that were being swatted at and he stood his ground very well. So I told him to keep the Jacket, actually," he laughed.

Hamilton received top honors from the netminder, but Thornton's comment was a testament to the game that Rask played.

The goaltender somehow finds a way to make everything look easy, even if it involves a sprawling side-to-side glove save on Justin Abdelkader early in the third period, with the Bruins holding a 2-0 lead.

"A lot of credit to the guys," is usually Rask's response after a shutout and strong defensive effort. They recorded 13 blocked shots in front of him, and helped provide their usual layers to support the puck and clear it out of harm's way.

"Well, that’s part of our defensive game — we have a lot of trust in each other and guys aren’t afraid to block shots when they have to block shots. So we had a lot of that tonight, I think," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien after the win.

"Again, to be good defensively, you have to have a team commitment and we had that."

The Bruins limited the Wings to just four shots on goal in the first period. It was an 8-1 shots advantage for Boston with less than eight minutes to go in the period. Detroit didn't help themselves, repeatedly turning pucks over, with Boston repeatedly going on the attack as a result.

The Bruins are a tough team to play against; they become even tougher when their opponent starts to give up space.

"I thought our skating game was good," said Julien. "We were closing gaps and we were able to be physical. We can talk about being a physical team but you can’t be physical if you can’t skate and get there, so I liked our effort."

Blueliner Matt Bartkowski drew back into the lineup for Game 3, after missing the first two games recovering all week from the flu. Though this was his first game of the series, how has he liked their defensive effort?

"Very satisfied," he said. "And a lot of that has to do with our forwards being able to come back and do their jobs properly. It makes a world of difference for us, and we just have to worry about the middle of the ice and they don’t get very many chances from inside the dots, which is our main goal, so works pretty well."

There's support all over the ice, but when those layers have any lapses, the last line of defense - Rask - has been there. He and the Bruins have only allowed two goals by Detroit through the first three games.

But this is no time to let up for Boston. The opportunistic Red Wings can strike at any moment.

After the Bruins went up 2-0 in the first period - thanks to Hamilton's and Jordan Caron's first NHL playoff goals - Detroit naturally began to push and generate more. The shots were more evenly spread out through the final two frames (23-19 in favor of Boston).

"It's always nice to jump out in front, but we know that two goals, is nothing this time of year," said Thornton. "We've got to continue to play, and play, and play, and I thought the guys did a pretty good job of that."

And that's what they'll have to continue to do moving forward.

"We can look at the score all we want, but in my mind, it’s one game at a time. It’s game per game. Next game it’s 0-0 again so we've still got to go out there and win that," said Julien.

"It hasn’t been easy, let’s not kid ourselves here. The games have been tight. Our goaltender has made some good saves at opportune times and we’ve been fortunate enough in the last couple games to get ourselves to a decent lead."

"But that can change on any given night, so certainly not going to talk about a comfortable situation because until you win that fourth game, it never is."

Under Julien, the Bruins are 14-1 in Game 3s, and Patrice Bergeron has been part of nearly all of them. But there's no particular emphasis on that specific game from this group that has been through the grinder before.

"It’s always about that next game," said Bergeron. "We said the third game was huge for us and we’ve done a good job."

"Honestly, I approach every game the same way, in 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, whatever it may be," said Thornton. "Come to the rink, try and be ready to play."

"It's nice that we've had success in Game 3, but that doesn't mean anything going into the next few, so I thought we played well, and we'll forget about this. They're going to be better the next game, so we're going to have to be better too."

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