– Following the Bruins’ 2-1 overtime victory over the Ottawa Senators, before 17,565 at TD Garden on Thursday night, B’s Head Coach Claude Julien labeled Tuukka Rask
“a goaltender ready to take over.”
Rask, who was named the game’s Third Star, stopped 30 shots to notch his fifth straight win and improve his overall record to 11-1-2, with a 1.82 goals-against average and a .933 save percentage, further proving that he's been ready to be the Black & Gold’s number one back stop for the long haul.
“Tuukks – we call him Felix the Cat because he’s so quick,” smiled Nathan Horton to media gathered around him in the locker room postgame. “He’s been doing that all year, every game. When he’s back there, he’s a shooter tutor with no holes and he’s such a great guy and you just want to see him do well and he’s been amazing for us.”
“He’s playing great,” added defenseman Andrew Ference. “I don’t think he’s really surprising anybody. He’s been solid for us for a number of years and has just kind of been waiting patiently. I know everybody wanted the best for him, so it’s just really nice to see him doing what I think everybody hoped and expected he would do.
“He’s living up to expectations which is not easy to do, especially in that position.”
Rask was tested often, including stopping 15 shots in the second period, but never missed a beat. He was poised, perhaps never more so than in overtime. No. 40 faced just two shots in the extra period, but both resulted in Rask making huge saves.
A shot by Patrick Wiercioch almost squeaked past him early in overtime, but Rask was able to turn it away. The biggest save of the night came with 1:52 left in OT, when a wide-open Kyle Turris fired a one-timer from the slot.
Rask, eyes never leaving the puck, went down in a butterfly and calmly made the stop. Patrice Bergeron registered the winning goal just over 20 seconds later.
“They got two good shots. They tried to create a pretty good screen there [on the first one], but I was able to keep them out and we got the goal,” Rask said of the Senators’ chances in the extra frame.
The lone goal Rask gave up came immediately after he made a tremendous stop on a Kaspars Daugavins breakaway. The puck lingered in the crease, however, and after a scrum, ended up in the net.
It was a small blip on the radar.
“That’s what we’ve tried to do, get him in the groove again with the games spread out,” said Julien of getting Rask on a roll. “He’s feeling good, so there was no hesitation putting him in tonight. He did a great job again. There were some point blank shots there from the slot area that on a lot of occasions you probably would have seen a goal.
“But, he stood tall, he challenged well and made those timely saves.”
Julien said, right now, he has the same confidence in Rask that he had in Tim Thomas, when the two-time Vezina Trophy winner was at his best.
“Right now, there’s no doubt I have the same confidence I had at the beginning,” Julien said. “At the same time, Tuukka is going to want to prove himself through a whole year and not just a 20-game span or a half a season, he’s going to want to be solid from start to finish. I think that’s his challenge this year that he’s looking forward to.”
Bergeron, who scored the OT-winner, feels that Rask has taken hold of his opportunity and is not letting go.
“No, he’s not, and that’s good,” said Bergeron, when asked about Rask not lacking confidence. “I think when you know you’re capable of doing the job and you have the abilities to be our number one, you want to thrive on your chance and he’s doing that right now.
“He’s grabbed it, and he’s running with it.”
Rask described his success simply, saying, “I feel good out there. Right now it’s kind of just moving along and the puck seems to find a way to hit me.”