PHILADELPHIA – Tuukka Rask looked refreshed and energized while cruising through a solid 25-save effort in Boston’s 6-1 romp over the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon.
With good reason as he only faced five shots in the third period of a one-sided victory for the Black and Gold, and was never really pushed after making 12 stops when it was still close in the opening 20 minutes.
“It was great. We kept it going for the whole 60 minutes. I think the first period was pretty even, and both teams had chances,” said Rask. “The best thing was that we never let our guard down, we just kept pushing and getting more goals. It was a good game.”
But the B’s goaltender did have a few flurries to contend with in the early going. In one sequence, a Kimmo Timonen blast created a fat rebound in front of the net that Wayne Simmonds was able to reach for a put-back attempt.
But Rask was able to smother that while protecting a one-goal lead, and a Jarome Iginla score with 18 seconds left truly felt like the back-breaker for the Broad Street Bullies. Even so Rask again flashed a big glove on Jakub Voracek in the second period on a slick cross-ice play, and looked as sharp as he has in the last month of game action.
Perhaps there was good reason for that as Rask is coming off a stretch of playing just one game in the last 10 days, and probably had the longest rest period since the regular season began in October. Rask’s 35-save shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks last weekend was the only game he played between a Jan. 14 loss to the Maple Leafs and Saturday’s win over the Flyers.
For a goalie that had been fighting the puck a bit lately, the ability to exhale mentally and physically was needed and appreciated.
“It was just a mental break. It was a great. We had a chance to do it, and take advantage of [the schedule],” said Rask. “I felt great today. Now it’s just that I have to keep that going, right?”
Claude Julien said before the game that the decision to rest Rask shouldn’t be judged by his performance on the ice against the Flyers, but it certainly liked the right call after watching the Finnish netminder commanding his crease against a sorry Philly bunch.
“I think it’s beneficial. I don’t think we need to gauge today’s game on how beneficial it was,” said Julien. “But when a goaltender gets an opportunity to rest like that, you take it. We all know he’s going to the Olympics, so it’s an opportunity for him.
“Forwards and defensemen can play 20 minutes a game, but goaltenders play all 60 minutes. So whenever you can give them a break it’s a very good thing.”
A Claude Giroux power play goal in the third period ruined Rask’s efforts for an NHL-best sixth shutout of the season, but both the goalie and the B’s hockey club will gladly settle for a rested, confidence goaltender headed in the right direction.