Rask accepts his role, finally gets first win

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Rask accepts his role, finally gets first win

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- It was the longest Tuukka Rask had ever gone without a win.

He said so himself after earning his first of the season Thursday night at the TD Garden, shutting out the Florida Panthers with 41 saves.

Prior to that, Rask held an 0-4-1 record in five appearances this year. Because of Tim Thomas' 10-1-0 hot start, Rask has been used as Boston's backup, just months after taking the B's within one win of the Eastern Conference Finals as the team's No. 1 'tender.

Regardless of his youth, the 23-year-old Rask is in the midst of quite a learning process. He's had to deal with going from being a No. 1 to being a goalie who's had to keep himself ready while no longer playing in consecutive games.

It's not an easy task, and he's even admitted that he's had to change his mindset.

But he hasn't allowed himself to become a distraction to the team . . . and that's a rare trait in this day and age in professional sports.

When players become stars, they don't want to be put on the bench. They want to continue to thrive as the go-to guy. They want to continue to be a star. And Rask pretty much earned star status last year as a Bruin.

So far this season, Rask's star doesn't have as much shine. But that doesn't have anything to do with how he's played, even if his record doesn't necessarily back that statement up.

It's been all about Thomas, and how he's returned to his Vezina-Trophy self.

But Thursday night's win against the Panthers was all about Rask.

"This game was mostly for him," said Milan Lucic, who scored the Bruins' first three goals in Boston's 4-0 win over Florida. "We wanted to go out there and give him a good effort, and give him a win, because he's been such a great guy in the locker room. He's such a great goalie and we're happy that we were able to get this win for him."

"I mean, we've got a lot of good guys in here, but he's definitely one of the best team guys around," said Shawn Thornton. "So, it's pretty disappointing in the first few games that we couldn't get a win for him, couldn't get the goals we needed.

"He keeps an upbeat attitude the whole time," added Thornton. "He's happy for what's going on here. He doesn't put himself ahead of anyone."

Rask also put himself in front of 41 pucks on Thursday night, marking his seventh career shutout. He is now 1-4-1 in six appearances because of it.

"It feels good to not let your team down, because we're on a winning streak now, and we keep that thing going," said Rask. "But it's just a win. It's not the first game I've won with the Bruins, but it feels good."

After the game, Rask refused to make a big deal about his first win of the season. Certainly, you would think the first one would lift a huge weight of his shoulders. But he said there's not much sense of relief, an attitude that shows he has a lot more to prove, even if he wasn't all that bad in his first five appearances.

"I felt good in all the games I've played," said Rask. "I just didn't get the bounces. Obviously today we scored four goals. That helps a lot, too."

Rask held a 1-0 lead late into the third period. That's when things began to open up, as Lucic scored his second and third goals 15 seconds apart, with just over five minutes left in the game.

It gave the Bruins plenty of breathing room, for sure. But on this night, with Rask having accepted his role, having continued to be a team player, and having been at his best, the Bruins didn't necessarily need it.

"Probably the game that we were hoping to see from him, for all the right reasons," said coach Claude Julien. "It was a grind, especially early on, and he really kept us in the game with some big saves, big, timely saves. So it was good for his confidence, and it was good for us to see him play that way. If you're going to get your first win, then what better way than a shutout."

Danny Picard is on Twitter at http:twitter.comdannypicard

Capitals lose 3-goal lead, recover to beat Bruins in OT

Capitals lose 3-goal lead, recover to beat Bruins in OT

WASHINGTON -- The Capitals didn't exactly end their overtime victory with a raucous celebration.

No, instead Washington held a players-only meeting, still salty over blowing a three-goal lead.

Nicklas Backstrom scored 1:36 into overtime, helping the Capitals beat the Boston Bruins 4-3 to avert a disastrous defeat Wednesday night.

Justin Williams scored twice and Daniel Winnik also had a goal to put Washington ahead 3-0 about six minutes into the second period.

After Winnik's tally, Washington went over 26 minutes without a shot on goal. Boston dominated the final five minutes of the second period, when Dominic Moore and David Pastrnak beat goaltender Braden Holtby. Colin Miller's power-play score 8:19 into third tied it at 3-3.

Backstrom saved the day, but not the Capitals from feeling uneasy.

"In the second and third period they outplayed," Backstrom said. "We were lucky that we came up with two points. We're not satisfied at all. We're happy with the two points, but not the way we played."

The locker room remained closed for approximately 15 minutes after the win, Washington's second in a row after losing three straight.

"We had a little talking here," said T.J. Oshie, who returned to the lineup for the first time since injuring his shoulder on Nov. 18. "There are some things we've got to clean up. I think it's more of a mentality more than it is the systems or anything like that. ... Once we get a step up on someone, we have to get that mentality that we're going to finish them off."

Evgeny Kuznetsov had two assists for the Capitals and Alex Ovechkin got his first point since Nov. 26.

Boston arrived in Washington 4-0-1 over its last five games with three wins in a row, including a 4-3 overtime triumph against Florida on Monday night. The Bruins outshot Washington 34-20.

"Hell of an effort. We got a big point for us. To comeback from 3-0 against Washington, it's not that easy," Pastrnak said. "Too bad we couldn't get the two points, but in this case the one point is huge for us."

Backstrom patiently waited on the right side before firing the winner past goaltender Tuukka Rask, who entered second in the league with a 1.68 goals-against average. Rask allowed three goals in his previous outing, too.

Williams had two goals over the first 24 games this season, but he matched that total less than eight minutes in against the Bruins. He redirected Kuznetsov's lofted centering pass past Rask for a 1-0 lead just 23 seconds into the first period.

"To be honest it's nice to see the puck go in the net," Williams said. "I've been pressing and working hard. Hopefully this can springboard me to some more production."

Matt Niskanen left with an upper-body injury and did not return. With the Caps down a defenseman, Boston outshot Washington 11-2 in the second period.

"In the second period, we just sort of sat back," Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. "It's hard to protect leads in the league."

The Capitals' second goal also occurred in front of the net. Williams emerged from a scramble with a shot that slithered under Rask.

NOTES: With his 673rd career win, Trotz passed Mike Keenan (672) for eighth place on the NHL's career wins list. ... Williams' first goal was the fastest for Washington since 2012. ... Boston assigned F Noel Acciari to the Providence Bruins two days after the 24-year forward returned to practice. Acciari injured his right leg on Nov. 7. ... Holtby improved to 10-2 career against the Bruins. His first career win came in relief against Boston in November 2010. ... The three-game season series resumes Feb. 1 in Washington.

UP NEXT

Bruins: Host Colorado on Thursday night.

Capitals: Play at Buffalo on Friday night.