When Tim Thomas left hockey this past offseason, he took with him the 35 wins he’d averaged over the past two seasons and left the Bruins and their fans with a nagging question; would Tuukka Rask be able to fill the void left by the two time Vezina Trophy winner’s departure? Rask’s performance in the first three games played this shortened season has helped ease the worried minds of the spoked-B faithful.
Rask earned victories in his first two games; a 3-1 home victory over the New York Rangers in the season debut, where he stopped 20 out of 21 shots and a spectacular 2 to 1 shoot out victory over the Winnipeg Jets on a chilly Martin Luther King day matinee. The only blemish of the season came at Madison Square Garden as the Rangers got their revenge in the form of a 4 to 3 overtime win. Despite the loss, Rask came up huge in net making some remarkable saves, including a series of saves as time expired that forced him into a snow angel position and sent the game into overtime.
“If anybody had doubts about Tuukka, hopefully they’re erased by now, because he’s been solid in every game he’s played,” said Bruins’ coach Claude Julien.
Friday night Rask and the Bruins faced off against the New York Islanders, who were fresh off a 7-4 come from behind victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs the night before. Both teams came out flat in the first few minutes with uneventful back and forth play and multiple icings by the Islanders. After posting the first three shots on net, the Islanders surrendered the next nine, including a rebound shot from Bruins’ defenseman Dougie Hamilton that Shawn Thornton collected and banged past New York netminder Rick DiPietro to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. The goal, shortly followed by a Milan Lucic fight, woke the team and the crowd up. The Bruins dominated the next couple of minutes but could not capitalize on the momentum. Missed opportunities and sloppy passing by the home team led to an Islanders tying goal when Keith Aucoin beat Rask for his second goal of the season. The two teams would head to the locker rooms tied at one after the first.
The Islanders would take the lead in the second when Daniel Paille turned the puck over in his own zone and an alert Aucoin beat Rask high for his second goal of the game. The hockey gods returned the favor for the Bruins when Gregory Campbell collected a puck that had bounced off Islanders’ defenseman Joe Finley’s skate and knocked it past DiPietro tying the game at 2-2. The two teams would enter the second intermission knotted up at two each.
Zdeno Chara broke the tie when he riffled a pass from Lucic past DiPietro’s glove, giving the Bruins a 3-2 lead. Patrice Bergeron cemented the victory for the Bruins when he scored on a breakaway to make it 4-2 Bruins. Rask stopped 24 out of the 26 shots he faced in the victory.
“I don’t think I’ve done anything spectacular out there,” Rask said humbly. “I’ve pretty much just played at my level but as a team we’ve been able to squeeze out and get those points.”
The Bruins’ next game will be against the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday, January 28th at 7PM.