TORONTO – It certainly looked like it wasn’t going to be Tuukka Rask’s day after giving up a couple of goals in the first period of Game 4.
The first was as much as a bad defensemen change/mix-up between Wade Redden and Zdeno Chara as anything else, but it resulted in Joffrey Lupul rifling a puck past the B’s goaltender from the right face-off circle. The second goal was even more frustrating as Chara served as an unwitting screen just as Cody Franson fired a puck from just inside the blue line, and Rask never saw the floating shot until it was already passing by him.
“It was kind of nightmare-type stuff for me. Their first shot goes in, and then that second one…I need to stop anything from the blue line, but there was a little communication break there between me and Z,” said Rask, who made 45 saves in all for the second straight game while sporting a 2.39 goals against average and .932 save percentage in the playoffs. “He got out of the way at the last second, and it was in the net. But those things happen…we bounced back.
The Bruins managed to come back from the dead in the second period, and even scored three goals to take a short-lived lead in the bloody, sweat-soaked contest. But it still looked like Rask was standing on shaky ground in the second period when Clarke MacArthur beat him five hole for a game-tying score just 44 seconds after Boston had grabbed a lead.
But so much of effective playoff goal-tending is simply making saves when it mattered most, and the Finnish net-minder turned into a Black and Gold brick wall in the third period and overtime when the game hung in the balance. Of course he was aided in his quest when Matt Frattin hit a post in overtime, but Rask had 25 saves in the third period and OT en route to a 4-3 victory in a pivotal Game 4 at the Air Canada Centre.
The Bruins goaltender had Lupul shaking his head after the game when he somehow snapped up a glove save in the third period on a shot the Toronto forward fired through a Boston’s defenseman’s legs. It was during an extended power play for the Leafs in the final 20 minutes when Boston’s PK stood strong, and Rask was their impenetrable last line of defense.
The Leafs only out-shot the Bruins by an 11-9 total in the overtime session, but the scoring chances were decidedly tilted in Toronto’s direction. None of that made Boston’s goalie blink as he continues to construct a growing reputation as a playoff performer while answering questions from three years ago against the Flyers.
“You want to reward [Rask] with a win,” said Johnny Boychuk. “He played great for us, and especially in overtime.”
On the same day he wasn’t nominated as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, Rask didn’t look much like one in the game’s first 40 minutes. But after that the 26-year-old Boston goaltender looked like something even better: a potential Conn Smythe winner in the making.
“This game could have gone either way, but we just hung in there,” said Rask. “In the overtime they had the momentum most of the time, I think. It was a good playoff game. I’m just trying to stop every puck and stay fresh. It’s playoffs with people creating a lot of traffic and rebounds, so it’s been tough.”
The tough stuff gets a lot easier when a hockey team’s goaltender is stopping 93 percent of the shots he faces in the playoffs. Just ask Tim Thomas and the Bruins of two years ago.