BOSTON - During their four-game losing streak last week, the Bruins surrendered 20 goals. Their defensive game, among the league's best for the majority of the season, was in a rut.
With their grasp on a playoff spot slipping away, the Black & Gold knew something needed to change - quickly. Three games later, the Bruins appear to have corrected course.
In three consecutive victories - including a 2-0 shutout of the Dallas Stars Thursday night at TD Garden - Boston has allowed just two goals and regained a spot among the Eastern Conference's top eight teams.
"It's crunch time," rookie blueliner Brandon Carlo said after the win over Dallas. "We all realize that, so we're just trying to make the simple plays and get the puck to the forwards and out through the neutral zone. At times we get caught, but at the same time, we're following the play up, and getting behind the play a little bit more."
Video: Marchand, Krug lead Bruins to 2-0 victory
Chief among the reasons for the turnaround have been the Bruins' goaltenders. Anton Khudobin filled in for an injured Rask on Saturday in Brooklyn, securing his fifth consecutive win.
And over the last two games, Rask (35-20-4, 2.31 GAA) has returned from a lower-body injury to surrender just one goal. The ace netminder secured his 37th career shutout and seventh of the season - tying a career high. It was Rask's first shutout since Feb. 12 against Montreal.
"I thought he earned his keep tonight," said interim head coach Bruce Cassidy. "He was our best player. When we broke down he was there. They were off net a few chances, and I think from my vantage point his angles were so solid that there wasn't much net to shoot at, [had it] under control."
Video: DAL@BOS: Rask gobbles up Cracknell's slap shot
To a man, the Bruins believed Rask - named the game's first star - was the most important player on the ice against the Stars.
"He has been important for us," said Krug. "He has seen the puck well and he looked calm and composed in the net. He's not moving too much…it's a good sign for a goalie when you're compact and you're not moving, scrambling all over the place. So, he showed up big for us when we weren't able to do the job."
While the Bruins secured their third straight victory, they were not overly pleased with the sloppy play that led to Rask having to bail them out on several occasions. The Bruins were charged with just eight giveaways, but felt they needed to be much cleaner with the puck.
"Sometimes, like tonight, we didn't have a great game, but we had some great goaltending," said Brad Marchand, who tallied his 38th goal of the season. "That can be the difference between winning and losing. It seemed like when we were on that losing streak, every time we made a mistake teams were capitalizing on it.
"We got the two points, which is huge right now. But, Tuukka played a great game. You have to give him a lot of credit. And [the defensemen] had a lot of big blocks. So, we have to clean it up for next game, but we do have to be happy with the two points."
Video: Bruins discuss 2-0 win over Dallas
The Bruins also have to be happy with their penalty kill. In addition to the strong goaltending, it was a major reason why Dallas was kept off the board. Boston went 3 for 3 on the kill, including a stellar four-minute squashing of Kevan Miller's double-minor high-sticking penalty on Curtis McKenzie midway through the third period.
"I thought we were good on the PK," said Krug. "They have a lot of fire power over there and they play fast, so they got their chances, and they're going to get their chances every game they play in. Tuukka showed up big when we weren't able to shut it down."
With six games remaining, the Bruins remain in control of their playoff destiny. The three straight wins have them positioned in the East's second wild card spot, three points ahead of Tampa Bay. Boston sits just one point behind Toronto for the third and final postseason spot in the Atlantic Division.
"Well, it was something we needed to do and something we need to continue to do," Rask said of following up four consecutive losses with three victories. "Other teams behind us…they're breathing in our necks for sure, so we have to keep on plugging away and keep winning.
"That's the only thing we can control, but obviously after a four-game losing streak we needed to change and so far so good."
Marchand, Krug Set Career Highs
Marchand opened the scoring when he finished a David Backes pass with a backhander by Antti Niemi at 15:14 of the first period. The marker was Marchand's 38th of the season, tying him for second in the NHL with Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov and surpassing his previous career-high of 37 goals achieved last season.
"Backs just did a great job at getting the initial shot and creating some traffic and getting the puck over," said Marchand. "A bit of a lucky bounce. But again, Backs did a great job on that goal. That was all him."
Video: DAL@BOS: Marchand chips Backes' feed past Niemi
Marchand followed up with a secondary assist on Torey Krug's eighth of the year at 1:18 of the second. The winger dropped a pass to David Pastrnak above the right circle, before Pastrnak skated down the wall and delivered a cross-ice pass to Krug, who was posted up at the top of the crease to tap it in and give the Bruins a 2-0 lead. Krug's tally gave him a career-high 50 points (eight goals, 42 assists) this season.
"I think he's taking care of the puck a little bit more with those passes and I think guys are starting understand he's going to make a lot of fakes and you always got to be ready for the puck," Krug said of Pastrnak's improved passing ability.
"He was catching some of us by surprise early on when he was throwing fakes and then just chucking the puck over at you, but he's obviously turning into that complete player and hanging on to the puck and making plays."
Video: DAL@BOS: Krug buries Pastrnak's nice feed for PPG