B's push back after Plekanec crashes Rask

May, 11, 2014
May 11
12:10
AM ET
BOSTON -- It's no coincidence the Boston Bruins scored a pair of power-play goals in a span of 32 seconds after Montreal Canadiens' Tomas Plekanec took a run at Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask.

With Rask's sharp play from Game 4 carrying over into the first period of Game 5, the Canadiens attempted to get the Boston netminder off his game by crashing the net with reckless abandon. That tactic didn't work. In fact, it backfired on the Canadiens as the Bruins finished with a 4-2 win and now lead the series 3-2.

[+] EnlargeTuukka Rask, Max Pacioretty
Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsBruins goalie Tuukka Rask makes a save against Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty in Game 5.
Boston held a 1-0 lead late in the first period when Plekanec crashed the net and finished with a cross check to Rask's mask. Rask responded with a blocker punch to Plekanec's face, and the Montreal forward was given a two-minute penalty for goaltender interference. But before he skated off to the penalty box, he was surrounded by many of Rask's teammates and a scrum ensued.

The message was sent to not fraternize with the Finn.

It's standard hockey practice to protect your goalie at all costs, but during the Stanley Cup playoffs, when a team's chances at winning a championship are often determined by goaltending, a team needs to stick up for its masked man.

"Every hockey team expects that," Rask said after his 29-save performance. "We're a tight group and we stick up for each other and if something happens we do it, but nothing serious."

With Plekanec still in the box for 1:44 to start the second period, the Bruins' Reilly Smith scored a power-play goal at 1:04 to give Boston a 2-0 lead. No sooner was Plekanec out of the box than he was called for high-sticking and returned to the sin bin.

Again, the Bruins capitalized and scored their second power-play goal when Jarome Iginla scored at 1:36 to give Boston a 3-0 lead.

"That was key," Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk said about the pair of goals. "Usually our second periods aren't our best and we know that, so we came out, scored two goals and kept going."

There was also a motivational factor to respond after Rask was plowed over in his own crease.

"Tuukka can take a lot of things, too," Boychuk said. "If a guy taps him on the hand, it's not going to hurt Tuukka. If something drastic happens, I'm sure somebody's going to step in no matter what. You never want to see that."

Since becoming the Bruins' No. 1 goaltender, Rask has bailed out his teammates time and time again. He led them to the Stanley Cup finals last spring before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks, and once again this year Boston is a strong title contender because of his prowess between the pipes.

Basically, anytime Rask sees a Canadiens sweater up close and personal, the Bruins are making sure to clear out the bodies in front.

"It's pretty important," said Bruins defenseman Kevan Miller. "In the past maybe we went a little far and end up getting in the box. We just need to make sure we're disciplined and let [Montreal] know that's not going to happen, but just don't cross that line."

Added Miller, "Whoever is in the net, we don't want anybody messing with our guy. I'm sure they don't want the same thing for their guy. We try to walk that fine line, whether to stay out of the box but make sure those guys know that's not going to happen."

Rask responded with his second consecutive solid performance. At the start of this series, it was evident goaltending would be a crucial aspect. Montreal goalie Carey Price was outstanding in the first few games, but now Rask is finding his groove.

"It's a huge confidence booster and he makes our job real easy," Miller said. "He's been playing well, so it's easy to play in front of him. He's an unbelievable goalie."

Rask only gets better when he gets pushed around.

Joe McDonald

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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