BOSTON – Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask had been, to quote Curly from the Three Stooges, a “victim of circumstance.” He was 0-4-1 entering Thursday night’s home contest with the Florida Panthers and had yet to have the team in front of him play its best.
Rask was by no means perfect, but he had sat on the bench to see Tim Thomas not only play well, but have his teammates bail him out of trouble multiple times.
“I don’t think he was playing bad, and he knew that eventually by sticking with it things were going to go his way,” head coach Claude Julien said.
The goal for Rask’s teammates was simple: Let’s get Tuukka a win. Behind Milan Lucic’s natural hat trick, they made that happen with a 4-0 win in front of a sellout crowd of 17,565 at the TD Garden, Rask’s first victory of the season.
“Tuukka’s one of the best team guys around so it was pretty disappointing that we couldn’t get a win for him, get the goals we needed,” Shawn Thornton said. “He keeps an upbeat attitude, he’s happy for what’s going on here. We talked to him before the game; we wanted to get one for him. He earned it that’s for sure.”
“Yeah, this game was mostly for him,” Lucic said. “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.”
“Looch told me this morning that he was gonna score for me, and he had three, so that’s good,” Rask said.
Lucic may have stole the show with his hat trick, but Rask had his best game all season with a 41-save beauty that proved to everyone that his confidence never waned.
“As I said before, just keep working hard and good things will happen,” Rask said.
“This was the game we were hoping to see from him,” Julien said. “It was a grind, especially early on, and he really kept us in the game with timely saves. It was good for his confidence and good for us to see him play that way. If you’re going to get your first win, what better way than a shutout.”
Rask’s shining moment came when the Bruins had a power play with about 15 minutes left in the third period. First, Rask stoned Chris Higgins on a breakaway attempt. Then, he robbed Bryan Allen with the glove.
“I think (Higgins) got a piece of my blocker, but I don’t know if it would have gone in,” Rask said. “The second one, I just tried to get wide on him so he’d have nothing to shoot at, and he shot it in my glove.”
The two saves pumped the crowd up and seemed to energize the Bruins as they poured on the pressure until Lucic finally broke through with two goals in the third period. The Black and Gold saw their goaltender step up, and they obliged him with a wild end to the third period.
It was a just reward for a goaltender who deserved exactly that.
”We mentioned it’d be nice to get him a win tonight,” Julien said. “They seemed to rally around that and certainly made a concentrated effort to do the best they can tonight.”