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CHICAGO -- Nobody would blame the Blackhawks if they started feeling the same kind of offensive exasperation that broke down the Penguins in the conference finals.
Call it “Rask Syndrome” if you will because Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask somehow held Chicago to a 1-0 lead after the Blackhawks outshot Boston 19-4 in the first period. The Blackhawks were attacking with speed and ferocity in waves during the opening 20 minutes, and they had three or four successive golden chances on a handful of shifts.
“If it wasn’t for Tuukka," said Chris Kelly, "it would have been a lot worse.”
The Blackhawks scored their lone goal in the 2-1 overtime loss on one of those dominant shifts as Patrick Sharp picked up a loose puck rebound and fired through a sea of bodies to score.
Rask was getting jostled and bumped, and the Bruins' chirps for a goaltender interference penalty went unanswered.
That was it for the Blackhawks, though there was one other close call in the first.
Marian Hossa nearly scored after stuffing home the rebound of a Jonathan Toews wraparound chance, but Rask stood his ground in the crease long enough for the play to be stopped thanks to “an intended whistle blow” by Wes McCauley and the referee crew.
As a result, the puck was frozen before Hossa pushed both goaltender and puck over the goal line.
“That first period was extremely hard for [Rask],” said coach Claude Julien. “But thankfully our guys rewarded him with that effort by being a lot better in front of him for the rest of the game.”
In all, Rask made 18 saves in the first period, and stopped 33 pucks over the course of a game where the Bruins gained strength as time wore on.
Put it this way: Game 2 wasn’t going to be won by the Bruins with that atrocious first period, but it certainly could have been lost if Rask was anything less than brilliant.
“We definitely were in survival mode there for a bit. It looked like they had more guys out there than we did,” said Rask. “They were bouncing on every single puck in front of net, had a lot of chances. We definitely played pretty bad. It was good that we were only down by one and regrouped after that.”
The performance leaves Rask with a 1.73 goals against average and a .944 save percentage. It also leaves the Blackhawks shaking their heads in lament that they couldn’t get another goal or two in the first period.