Despite loss, Rask shines in playoff debut

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask accomplished exactly what he needed to in his first NHL playoff game.

Unfortunately for the rookie and the Bruins, the Buffalo Sabres did just enough to win Game One of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal matchup, 2-1, Thursday night at HSBC Arena. Rask made 30 saves in the effort.

“Not too bad. It was OK,” he said of his first playoff game. “It was a tough loss, but I felt OK.”

From the opening puck drop, the fans here were chanting his name and harassing him, but he didn’t allow the intense environment get in his head.

“It’s no different than Montreal. It’s pretty loud in there [Bell Centre] and it’s good to have those fans there to keep the atmosphere up.”

His comments were a clear indication he didn’t get rattled given the circumstances of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and it was reflected in his play.

“He was great, when you look at the saves he made in the end when we were trying to stay in it and trying to tie the game up," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "They had some power plays and some opportunities and he made some huge saves. He gave us a chance, so no complaints. He was really, really good for us tonight.”

Buffalo scored first when the Sabres’ Thomas Vanek took a drop pass from Derek Roy and beat Rask at 4:52 of the first period. Rask said he was surprised to see Vanek as the trailer, and when the goalie moved left to get a better view of the shooter, Vanek beat him to the blocker side.

“If I’m in the right position I would’ve had that,” said Rask.

After the Bruins knotted the game at 1-1 on Mark Rechhi’s power-play goal at 9:30 of the second period, a period Boston completely dominated, Buffalo produced the eventual game-winning goal in that frame.

The Sabres’ Craig Rivet blasted a slap shot from the left face-off circle through a screen and past Rask at 14:10 for a 2-1 lead.

“It was a tough goal, but it was a good shot, too,” said Rask.

The hype leading up to this series focused on the opposing goaltenders and most wondered how Rask could match save for save against the Sabres’ Ryan Miller. Rask proved he could handle the pressure. Miller made 38 saves and said he wasn’t concerned with the masked man at the other end of the ice.

“I’m just going to worry about their shooters and he can do his business,” said Miller. “He is a very good goaltender, but we’re going to try to get to him. We’re going to get inside where we can get shots on net, and we came close on a few rebound situations but he made good recovery saves. We were really close on a few other plays and we need to take those as positives.”

If the Bruins are to have success in this series, they are going to need Rask to play exactly how he did in Game One. His teammates weren’t surprised by his performance.

“He’s very steady and calm,” said Chara. “For his age and for a goalie who doesn’t have many years in the league, he’s playing extremely well for us.”