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Rask is a Game-Changer

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins - Bruins' netminder Tuukka Rask was allowed a laugh on Saturday night. And it wasn't just because he had backstopped his team to the Eastern Conference Finals - and a date with the Pittsburgh Penguins - with a 3-1 win over the New York Rangers, in which he made 28 stops.

"To win this game was important for all the right reasons. But also, it gives Tuukka the opportunity now to laugh about that goal instead of crying, right?" said Coach Julien following the series-clincher.

"I think that was pretty important, too. So that’s what I told Tuukka at the end of the game, ‘You can start laughing now.’"

Of course, the goal in mention was the snafu from Game Four, which will soon be an afterthought.

In a goaltending match-up that saw the Bruins facing Vezina winner Henrik Lundqvist, the Black Gold found 15 ways past the the King. At the opposite end, Rask posted a .936 save percentage and 1.86 goals-against average.

But it wasn't just Rask's ability to keep the puck out of the net amidst sustained pressure. It was the key saves, those timely stops that change momentum in a game, that give the team in front of him a chance to win. It's that ability that has earned him a level of respect from his teammates - and general manager - to never question his confidence.

"I liked Tuukka’s big saves. We had some real good games where, I’d have to go back and look, but I think we outchanced them in every game," Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli told media, on the team's off day Sunday, of Rask's play against New York.

"The last game [Game Five], he had those two saves in the third. Not part of sustained pressure. You see a bunch of saves, it’s point-blank on [Ryan] Callahan and [Rick] Nash - those are big saves. His ability to bounce back from the game before, I like that."

Following Saturday night's win, Rask liked those big-time saves as well.

"That’s just staying mentally sharp. But you have to know something is going to happen, and they’re going to throw everything they could at you and going to try to get that change to tie the game," said Rask, of stopping the Callahan breakaway at the midpoint of the third period to keep the game at 2-1. He was sitting at the press conference podium, wearing the Bruins' Player of the Game Army Rangers jacket, a gift to the team that's given out after each win to a player who stepped up big for the team.

"You know, today it happened to be a breakaway and I just wanted to make one or two big saves in the third and hopefully keep that lead. And today, we succeeded."

Defenseman Matt Bartkowski wasn't too pleased with letting Callahan past him on the breakaway, but knew his goaltender would back him up.

"The first thing, me and Johnny [Boychuk] - I probably should have backed off the line there, and gone to the middle - and then I was like, ‘oh crap, come on, this isn’t actually going to happen.’ Then Tuukka, like he always does, comes up huge for us. That was big."

"I owe him probably more than that; probably a week’s worth," said Bartkowski, when a reporter joked if he owed Rask a steak dinner. "That would have been a back-breaker if that went in."

"My heart stopped for a second, but, no, we have Tuukka back there and he loves to play in pressure situations," returned blueliner Dennis Seidenberg thought, when Callahan came through the middle.

"He made a great save. Again, it’s great to have him back there. He just spreads a certain amount of calmness back there, or confidence. It just helps everybody on the ice."

The Bruins' confidence in their "Player of the Game" was spread throughout the locker room.

"He’s a guy that time and time again shows up to big games and we really rely on him, and again tonight he was really good," said Gregory Campbell, who could have earned himself the jacket as well, for his two-goal performance, netting the game-winner and empty-netter to seal it, 3-1, late in the third.

"What happened last game, it’s in the past. It’s kind of funny. He’s got a sense of humor about it," said Torey Krug, who fired home his fourth NHL goal in his fifth playoff game.

"We understand we expect Tuukka to make those saves. That save in the third period on the breakaway was, that was also a game-changer for us. I think we spent the next two, three minutes down in their end with Lucic’s line. He’s a game-changer. He’s an unbelievable goalie, and we have so much confidence in him. We’re excited."

The B's were excited and confident, but they weren't surprised.

"Nobody’s ever questioned him in here," Shawn Thornton said following the game, before Rask had made his way to the podium wearing the team jacket. "He’s been unbelievable for us, even through this series and I’m sure you’ll see him with the jacket on in a little bit. He deserved it."

"As I said, as a goalie, you expect to make one or two big saves, and today, it happened," the 26-year-old reiterated after the win.

"I didn’t feel bad about myself after Game Four, obviously there was a little screw up there with that goal. But I didn’t let that bother me, and I felt like I played a decent game after that. Coming in today I just wanted to big rock solid back there, and give our team a chance to win the game."

Rask did that, and helped earned his team a berth to the Conference Finals, the first time he has been between the pipes for that feat.

"Coming home for Game Five, we just wanted to play a real solid game and finish things off. And it’s big to get a couple of days off and get some rest for the guys."

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