BOSTON - Tuukka Rask could hear the cheers - and the 'Tuuuuukkkk' chants - building during the first television timeout on Tuesday night. The appreciation showering down upon him reached a crescendo when Boston's all-time winningest netminder began to reciprocate that gratitude with a wave to the Black & Gold faithful that have supported him for the last 13 years - and now 500 regular-season games.
Rask became the 72nd goaltender in National Hockey League history and the first Bruins backstop to accomplish that feat, as he got the start between the pipes against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team that drafted him out of his native Finland in 2005.
"It's super nice. I mean it's one of those milestones you're only going to hit once - if you ever get there," said Rask. "And I wanted to recognize the crowd. They've been behind me and the team for so many years so it's a nice moment… I'm just super happy that I've been part of this organization in a town like this for so many years."
The 32-year-old sent the TD Garden crowd home just as happy after stopping 28 of the 30 shots he faced from the Maple Leafs in a 4-2 victory that was clinched with third-period tallies from newcomers Brett Ritchie and Par Lindholm.
"The guys on the ice, they want to win for him every night, but I think they realized tonight was a special night, and I thought we played pretty well in front of him," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "I'm sure they're very happy for Tuukka. Anyway, he's on to 501 on Saturday probably."
Video: Rask Speaks After 4-2 Win Against TOR
The win was the 269th of Rask's career, extending his team record that was set last February. Rask is now 4-0-1 this season with a 1.77 goals against average and .944 save percentage, which leads the NHL. He ranks fourth in save percentage and wins.
"It's great to see. It's been 12 years together, something like that now," said longtime teammate Brad Marchand, who had a goal and an assist to extend his point streak to eight games. "It's a lot of fun to see guys like that, that are such great people and teammates, hit big milestones. It means we're getting old, but we've had a lot of fun together.
"He continues to find ways to improve and be better for this team and it's a big reason why we're a good team right now. It's a lot of fun to see him continue to be a phenomenal goalie in this league and he will be for a long time still. He's earned it."
Marchand went on to praise Rask's ability to tune out the noise - both positive and negative -pointing out that it is one of the main reasons why Rask has been an elite NHL goaltender for nearly a decade.
"Especially these big statement games. We do feed off that energy and emotion, when he's just so calm when they're coming down with a lot of momentum and they're able to swing the tide their way," said Marchand. "When you see him, he's just not fazed at all. It kind of calms us down on the bench and gives us the reassurance that we can count on him and he's going to be there for us and he has been for a long time now.
"We know that regardless of what game it is he's gonna be there and we can rely on him to keep us in it and he's doing that."
Video: Rask is 72nd goalie in NHL history to play 500 games
Top Line Dazzles - Again
It was Marchand and David Pastrnak, of course, who were among the main contributors to Rask's milestone victory. The duo hooked up for a pair of dazzling goals, including yet another highlight-reel tally by Pastrnak to open the scoring.
After collecting a Marchand feed to the right of the Toronto net, Pastrnak pulled the puck between his legs and flipped a shot on goal that trickled through the five-hole of Maple Leafs goalie Michael Hutchinson on the power play to put Boston up, 1-0, with 2:45 to go in the fist period.
"Probably instincts…I don't know, I was thinking about I should pass it backhand and then just kind of slide it between my legs," said Pastrnak, who had a goal wiped off the board earlier in the period on an offside challenge. "Tried a couple times in practice and it didn't work. Worked today, so kind of lucky."
The goal was Pastrnak's league-leading 10th of the season and his 300th career point, making him just the fourth Bruin to hit that milestone in fewer than 350 games played (329). The others: Barry Pederson (235), Bobby Orr (279), and Ray Bourque (316).
"Everything catches my eye with him lately. He's just on it, he's on pucks, he's strong, his conditioning seems great," said Cassidy. "He's playing a lot of minutes, hard minutes against good players every night. Playmaking ability, he's making plays as well, getting his shot off… I think he's stronger on the puck so he can be a little more creative."
Video: TOR@BOS: Pastrnak goes between his legs for PPG
Pastrnak, who extended his point streak to seven games (10-7-17), made another sensational play on Marchand's second-period goal, as he carried the puck from behind the Toronto net and up to the hashmarks, before spinning and firing a pass to Marchand across the slot.
Marchand collected the feed and ripped a wrister by the glove of Hutchinson for a 2-1 Bruins lead at 6:09 of the second.
"I kind of saw him make eye contact with me, so I knew he was going to try," Marchand said of the pass. "He does that a lot and he made an incredible pass and I knew that I had to try to get it off quick and try to beat that goalie….he is feeling it right now after the two plays he made tonight on his goal and on my goal.
"He's got his confidence right now and he's making his high-end plays…a lot of fun to play with him right now and it is fun to watch. He's a special player."
Video: TOR@BOS: Marchand buries wrister from the slot
Secondary Scoring Comes Through
For the second straight game, the Bruins' secondary scoring emerged with contributions. Ritchie's goal at 6:35 of the third proved to be the eventual winner and marked the second straight game that he registered a point after picking up an assist on Saturday night in Toronto. Jake DeBrusk assisted on the tally, giving him points in consecutive games, as well, after a goal in that OT loss over the weekend.
The Bruins extended the lead to 4-2 with 2:03 remaining when Par Lindholm finished off a feed from Sean Kuraly - who was exiting the penalty box - on a 2-on-1 for his first goal with the Black & Gold.
"It was coming, you could see it - Ritchie's starting to turn a corner a bit, [Charlie] Coyle and DeBrusk, they've been closer," said Cassidy. "They're on pucks a little better, so I was happy for them to get rewarded. Not only that, I thought they did a better job getting out of their end, winning puck battles when it mattered, then it translated in the other end."
Video: Pastrnak, Marchand lead Bruins to win vs. Leafs