BOSTON -- It looked like Tuukka Rask had hit a little bit of a wall earlier this month when a heavy workload and a virus that attacked most of the team worked a 1-2 combination on the B’s netminder.
It culminated with Rask getting pulled from a tough loss to the Vancouver Canucks at the end of a Western Canada road trip, but ever since that point the Bruins netminder has been riding a hot streak again.
The stretch of goaltending brilliance continued with a 33-save effort in Boston’s 5-0 win over the Ottawa Senators on Friday night at TD Garden that registered as Rask’s NHL-leading fourth shutout of the season.
In the four games since the Vancouver loss, Rask is 4-0-0 with a 0.75 GAA and a .976 save percentage with two shutouts while allowing only three goals on the 123 shots that he’s faced.
“You know there was that one stretch I played a lot and obviously get fatigued and tired,” admitted Rask, who is 20-8-2 with a 1.81 goals against average and .938 save percentage on the season. “But then the past few weeks, I think I’ve had enough rest and Chad [Johnson] has been able to come in and do a good job too. I’ve felt good so far.
“You take three days off, and you probably go for a walk or something like that. You don’t skate or play hockey. So I think there’s a little bit of [rustiness]. But I’m just happy that we fixed it, and we realized that it wasn’t going to be good enough in the future and we fixed it.”
It’s only the second time in his career that Rask has won 20 games in a season, and the first time since won 22 games for the Black and Gold as a rookie netminder back in the 2009-10 season.
Truly the Bruins netminder helped win the game for the Black and Gold when he turned away 15 shots in the first period dominated by the Ottawa Senators, and then watched as his teammates poured on the offensive in the final two periods. Rask’s toughest save was probably his stop on the first shift of the game when Clarke MacArthur picked up a loose puck in front of the net, and Rask had to quickly move right to left in order to smother the shot.
It was a sign of more to come as the Senators outshot the Bruins by a 15-5 margin in the opening 20 minutes.
“It wasn’t a great first period for us. They shot a lot of pucks on net, but any time they triple your shots the first period, it’s not good. I think we did a great job bouncing back though,” said Reilly Smith.
“Tuukka [Rask], he’s going to stand on his head for us and the thing is, sometimes we expect that too much.
“But he did a great job tonight and he kept us in it the first period, no doubt. I just think our team did a good job bouncing back in the second and third, and we were able to create a lot more scoring chances and kind of turn the game around.”
Those scoring chances probably wouldn’t have mattered if Rask didn’t stand up as Boston’s best player in the first period, but he did what any good NHL goalie will do: hold his team into the game until they get their bearings. Rask did just, and he continued his own personal winning streak that’s reached four games after his biggest speed bump of the year.