Thursday, January 6, 2011
Tuukka Rask handed another tough loss
By Joe McDonald ESPNBoston.com
BOSTON -- Tuukka Rask couldn't have done anything differently.
He played exceptionally well, but the snake-bitten Boston Bruins netminder once again did not get any help from his offense as the Minnesota Wild beat the Bruins 3-1 Thursday night at TD Garden. Rask's record of 3-8-1 in 13 games this season doesn't do him justice.
Rask's teammates said all the right things after the loss, but they didn't show it on the ice.
"Tuukka was awesome again," said Bruins forward Shawn Thornton. "I think it's actually awful that the kid plays that good for us all the time and we don't get the wins for him. We care about him and we should probably show it in a better way because he stood on his head for us pretty much every night. His save percentage is [.928] and that should be good enough to win a lot of hockey games. We're going to have to look at ourselves in the mirror as far as that goes."
For some unforeseen reason, Rask has been unfortunate so far this season and hasn't enjoyed the type of success he enjoyed during his rookie season last year when he led the Bruins to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Despite Tuukka Rask's 31-save effort Thursday, the Bruins fell to the Wild.
Rask made his third consecutive start Thursday, his longest stretch this season. He was in net to start against the Sabres on Saturday in Buffalo but he was pulled after allowing three goals on 16 shots in the first period. Bruins coach Claude Julien decided it was best to come right back with Rask against the Maple Leafs on Monday in Toronto, and Rask rewarded his team with a stellar 2-1 victory.
He responded again Thursday night, but he was one of the only Bruins players to compete in a winning manner. Julien said he feels for Rask.
"Absolutely," the coach said. "This is a goaltender tonight that was outstanding for us and he deserved a better fate. He gave us a chance to win, so you feel bad for him because he deserves to probably be in the win column tonight and not the loss column."
Time and again this season Julien has explained that the team does not have a No. 2 goalie. In order for the Bruins to enjoy success for the remainder of the season in an attempt to earn a postseason berth, Boston will need its goaltending tandem of both Rask and Tim Thomas (18-4-5) to play equally and at the top of their games.
Thomas has been consistent for the majority of the season, and it appears Rask has found his groove.
"I try to feel good about myself every day and think positive," Rask said. "The past couple of games have been solid. It's tough to lose like this. It's kind of frustrating but you always try to feel good about yourself. The last three games have been a step in the right direction.
Minnesota's first goal came on the power play and the Wild's game-winning tally was off a pitiful turnover by the Bruins' Marc Savard at 2:22 of the third period. Minnesota added an empty-net goal for a 3-1 final.
With the game knotted at 1-1 with 2:10 remaining in the second period, Rask made a tremendous glove save on the Wild's Martin Havlat that should have given the Bruins a major boost of confidence to win this game for their goaltender.
It didn't happen -- again.
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"Tuukka played really well," said Bruins defenseman Steven Kampfer, who scored Boston's lone goal. "That was a huge save in the second period. That was a game-changing save, and for us not to rebound and come out hard in the third, that's our fault. He stood on the head tonight and that was what we needed and we didn't give him any offense in return."
Rask called the save half luck and half skill.
"I saw him at the last second and I just dove," he said. "The puck was bouncing a bit for him and he didn't get enough wood on it. You've got to be lucky to make those saves, too."
In order to produce that type of game-winning offense, the Bruins needed to shoot more. On Thursday, they didn't take advantage of the quality chances when they could. Boston finished with 36 shots but it should have had more.
"It's been disappointing all year for him," Savard said of Rask. "He comes in and gives us a solid effort. We can't seem to score when he's in there. I feel bad for him because he's one of the best goaltenders in the league."
No doubt it was a disheartening loss for Rask and the Bruins, but Boston can't dwell on it too much because it needs to get ready for division opponent Canadiens on Saturday night in Montreal.
"I guess that's the good news, right?" Thornton said. "We're back on the road and we go to Montreal for a big division game. We'll think about this one until midnight, try to forget about it and focus on Montreal."
Joe McDonald covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.