Bruins come through in front of Rask

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Bruins come through in front of Rask

By DannyPicard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Fighting has always been known to spark a hockey club. Three fights in the first four seconds of a game, including two clear-cut victories, as the Bruins had Thursday night, should be enough to fire up the squad.

But as much as Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton and Adam McQuaid got the TD Garden rocking in the early moments of their against the Dallas Stars, a win wasn't guaranteed.

Their fights would have been meaningless if there had been no response after the fact.

Well, the Bruins responded.

As B's defenseman Andrew Ference -- who had the team's fourth fight, and third win, in the first four minutes of the first period -- pointed out after Boston's 6-3 win over Dallas, some good hockey got lost in all the fighting.

What also could have been lost in all the fighting was the fact that the Bruins played good hockey in front of Tuukka Rask.

Rask entered Thursday's game with a sub-par 4-10-1 record, but his 2.67 goals-against average and .923 save percentage told a different story about his season.

So many times this year, Bruins players have taken the blame for a game in which Rask was credited with the loss. But they did so because it was true. For most of Rask's starts, the B's have failed to show up to play the same way they do when Tim Thomas is in net.

And make no mistake about it, it's nothing more than a coincidence. But that doesn't hide the fact that it happens.

It didn't happen on Thursday, as the Bruins responded to the fighting with two early goals from Milan Lucic and Patrice Bergeron in the first 1:20 of the game. They went into the second period with a 4-0 lead.

"Well, part of it is our fault, to be honest with you," said Bergeron after the win about the team's play in front of Rask. "Rask's got the numbers, the numbers are unbelievable. He doesn't get those wins, but part of it is our fault, as teammates. And we need to step up and give it a good effort in front of him. We did that tonight, but also, I think he made some amazing saves and kept us in the game."

"We feel so bad for him," said Ference. "So many of the games that he started this year, he plays great and then we just seem to screw it up for him. The fights are one thing, but after the fights, to respond with some really good goals, and I think a really good first period, that's the impressive thing. Anybody can go out there and drop the gloves and fight, and do all that stuff. But to follow it up with really good hockey, is what makes it successful."

Rask finished with 30 saves, but allowed three goals on a third-period letdown to make the score 4-3.

The B's quickly called a time out, and turned things around, scoring two goals. Rask turned it around as well, making several more big stops to preserve the lead.

"It's nice to see some offensive power," said Rask. "Especially the way we started the game. Three fights, and then respond with four goals. That's a good sign. They helped me out a lot today."

"I don't know how many people realize how many key saves he made at those key moments," said Bruins coach Claude Julien, praising Rask for being the team's best penalty killer during Dallas' five-minute power play in the second period.

"He made some big saves, and he made some really, really big saves at the right time, and that's what you want from your goaltender," added Julien. "Whenever the other team gets those great opportunities, if he can come up with some big saves, that usually makes the difference in the game, and he did that for us tonight . . . We're going to need more of that from him as we move forward."

And Rask will certainly want more of the same from his teammates when he's between the pipes.

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin' Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.

Julien wonders whether Bruins shutout loss was fatigue-related

Julien wonders whether Bruins shutout loss was fatigue-related

BOSTON – The Bruins didn’t show anything on the ice in Monday afternoon’s 4-0 matinee loss, and that’s not really any kind of an overstatement.

The scoring chances were almost nonexistent despite 32 shots on net, the second period was dreadful as the Bruins gave up three goals over the course of a six minute span and there was zero added urgency in the third period once the B’s fell behind. The emotion was missing from the drop of the puck to open the game and it never showed up once the Islanders began taking control of the game.

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It was a bitterly disappointing result after the Black and Gold had played so well in their previous five games, and put in strong, winning efforts against the Panthers, Blues and Flyers.

On Monday afternoon, the passes were sloppy and errant all over the ice, there was zero physicality and the Bruins buckled once the Isles turned the intensity up just a little bit in the second period. The game was basically over once Nikolay Kulemin snapped one home wide open from the slot area with Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid and David Krejci all blowing their defensive assignments, and then Tuukka Rask followed it up by allowing a softie to Josh Bailey from a bad angle close to net.  

So Bruins head coach Claude Julien termed it a “flat” performance once it was all over with, and openly wondered whether it was fatigue-related result linked to the compacted schedule Boston has played through this season. Monday marked the seventh straight day that the Bruins held some kind of formal skate, though most of the veteran B's players stayed off the ice during last week's Wednesday off-day practice in Nashville.   

“We were flat tonight, obviously, flat from the get-go. I think that first half of the game, we didn’t give much until they scored that first goal. We were able to stay in, but we certainly weren’t generating much ourselves, from that point of view,” said Claude Julien. “His is really the first year, for me as well, going through a condensed schedule, and I’m certainly not using that as an excuse, is it fatigue?. . . But we were flat tonight. How do you explain it? I don’t know. I know that it’s frustrating. I know that it’s disappointing. That’s all I can say.

“Whether it’s mental fatigue, whatever it is. We made some mistakes tonight like, from the goals you look at, we weren’t even in the position that we’re normally in. So we were totally out of whack, as far as even defending. When you give that first goal that much room in the middle of the ice, your D’s go on the wrong side, your weak-side forward is way on the other side, and you open up the slot area, that’s something I haven’t seen much of this year. I think it said a lot from our game tonight.”

The compacted schedule certainly could be a factor for a Bruins team that’s played more games than anybody else in the Eastern Conference to this point, but the B’s also had 48 hours to recharge after winning a Saturday matinee over the Flyers. So the fatigue excuse seems a little far-fetched for a hockey club that’s no-showed a few too many times this season, and did it again on Monday afternoon against one of the worst teams in the NHL.