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Rask Stands Tall for Bruins in 3-1 Win Over Florida

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

SUNRISE, Fla.Tuukka Rask stopped 31 of 32 shots on Friday night as the Bruins earned a 3-1 win over the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center to kick off their first back-to-back of the season.

Boston will next face the Lightning in Tampa Bay on Saturday night.

The only goal Rask and the Bruins allowed came during a Panthers’ 5-on-3.

“Tuukka was outstanding in my mind,” said Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien. “He made some big saves and certainly made our penalty kill look even better.”

His most impressive save of the night came after the Bruins had taken a 1-0 lead midway through the first period. With Jimmy Hayes in the penalty box for hooking, Rask pulled out a double pad stack and stretched his glove up to rob Jonathan Huberdeau, who tried to quickly snap one blocker side.

It was so impressive among the 30 saves — that Rask needed some light-hearted reminding postgame.

“Which — in the first period? I don’t remember,” he pondered.

“It’s the one where you sprawled across real fast… on the power play… you went to your left and kind of went up with the glove,” reporters chimed in to help trigger the moment.

“Ohh yeah, the two pad jammer. Yeah, yeah, yeah I know,” Rask smiled as it registered. “Yeah, the ice was kind of sticky, I couldn’t slide across, I had to kind of throw myself in there, but with those sometimes you catch it, sometimes you don’t.”

He caught it, and that save could just as well have been the turning point in the game — except that Rask had made timely saves prior to that one, and kept making them until the final buzzer sounded on the Bruins’ third straight win.

Rask had to be sharp earlier in the first period, when the game was still scoreless and the Bruins found themselves prone to defensive breakdowns.

He stopped Quinton Howden all alone from the right circle about five minutes into the first when Joe Morrow blew a tire, then shut down Nick Bjugstad when the Panther got a step behind Kevan Miller during a line change.

The healthy dose of Boston fans in attendance let their “Tuuuuuuuuukk” chants rain down early on, and continued them throughout the night.

“In the first period, I really felt the chances we gave them were self-inflicted — we kept giving them those opportunities by not making the best decisions, but he stood tall and he allowed us to stay in the game,” said Julien. “With it 0-0 and we finally got that goal that gave us the lead and as you know, it’s always a good sign when you can get the lead on the road in the first period, and then work from there.”

Rask was coming off his first shutout of the season with a 6-0 win over Arizona on Tuesday night back at TD Garden. He’s now 3-0-1 in his last four starts, and the Bruins are 5-0-1 in their last six games. With the victory in Sunrise, they stay unbeaten on the road with a 4-0-0 record.

“He had two great games back-to-back,” said David Krejci. “Especially in the first period, two breakaways and he kept us in the game, so he was huge again and it’s good to see him starting to play well.”

“I think he was obviously the difference in our game,” said Zdeno Chara, who gave the Bruins a 3-0 lead with a power play goal midway through the second. “I think he was the reason why we won the game.”

“It’s nice to see him playing with confidence again.”

“When he’s seeing the puck like he is right now, it helps us because we’re not second-guessing our decisions,” said Torey Krug. “We know that if we do get caught and we’re playing aggressive, he’s there to back us up so he’s been great for us the last couple of games.”

Along with the rest of the team, Rask had tough outings at the outset of the season when the Bruins went 0-3 and allowed 16 goals against.

“Well, I think we feel comfortable with both of our goalies, but obviously Tuukka is the guy who has more experience and he’s that kind of a guy that always takes it very personally and when he’s not playing well, he’s doing whatever he can to improve his game,” said Chara.

They’ve rebounded since the poor start, and haven’t looked back.

“We tried to play very simple hockey and not do anything too fancy out there,” said Rask. “Put pucks in deep and try to grind it out and it’s been working for us.”

The Bruins held the Panthers to seven shots on goal through about the first 30 minutes of the game. Holding them scoreless in the first was a feat in itself — Florida’s 11 first period goals entering the game ranked tied for the first in the NHL.

“Until they got that power play in the second, I don’t think they had a shot on net in the second period… so that’s what happens sometimes, you start taking penalties, give the other team some life, and then from there on in, they seemed to take off,” said Julien.

The Bruins got into 5-on-3 penalty trouble midway through the second, with Colin Miller and Morrow in the box. Florida scored on an unfortunate bounce, when Adam McQuaid’s stick broke as he blocked a shot. Bjugstad jammed in the rebound from the top of the crease to reduce the Panthers’ deficit to 3-1.

McQuaid then saw his clearing attempt go up into the stands and was called for delay of game, putting the Bruins back on a 5-on-3 kill. Rask came up big, robbing Reilly Smith on the doorstep. Chara logged 2:33 straight in ice time and played nearly the entire penalty kill.

“If we had been little bit better — those pucks over the glass are killers, you know, and we had two of those,” said Julien, referencing a Chara delay of game penalty late in the third in addition to McQuaid's. “You give the other team some life, some momentum, but that’s where as a team, I credit the guys for finding ways to kill those penalties and not allow those goals.”

The Black & Gold got into penalty trouble again late in the third after Marchand was assessed a boarding penalty and game misconduct, but they made the kill. They killed off all four of Florida’s 5-on-4 opportunities.

Special teams had an even better night on the power play.

The Bruins had entered the night with its PP ranked first in the NHL. Thanks to the tallies from Marchand and Chara, they have now converted on 11 of their 31 opportunities through the first nine games of the season.

They have scored at least one power play goal in six of their nine games.

Marchand opened the scoring at 9:22 into the first period, with Sn in the box for hooking David Pastrnak.

Brett Connolly made his way into the zone with speed and then controlled the puck behind the net, before rotating it out high to Colin Miller at the right point. Miller orchestrated a give-and-go with Chara, who wristed a shot from long-range in the high slot that Marchand deflected past Luongo’s stick side.

“I think it’s same as every game, just want to work hard and sometimes it comes together and sometimes it doesn’t and luckily I got a couple of bounces,” said Marchand, who now has four goals on the season.

Marchand made it 2-0 with his second goal of the night at 7:07 into the second when he backhanded his own rebound past Luongo after a point shot from Torey Krug.

Boston went on the power play shortly thereafter, with Marchand getting time in Ryan Spooner’s spot on a unit with Bergeron, Loui Eriksson, Krejci and Krug. Chara hopped on for Krug and fired in the rebound off a drive from Krejci for his first goal of the season to make to 3-0 at 9:13 into the period.

“We did a good scouting before the game, we knew they had some aggressive PKers and the rule of the power play is to take what they give you,” said Krejci, who notched an assist on Chara’s tally to extend his point streak to nine games (seven goals, 15 points).

“The other unit scored the first goal, we scored the other goal, so it was another good game for our power play.”

Apart from special teams, the Bruins have been able to consistently sustain their 60-minute efforts — and getting confident play from Rask always sets them up for success.

“Tuukka definitely stole the game for us,” said Bergeron. “And stood tall from the first shift to the last.”

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