BOSTON — There was much anticipation for Jaromir Jagr‘s debut in Bruins black and gold leading into Thursday’s game with the New Jersey Devils. Because of that, the Jagr circus may have overshadowed a fine performance from Tuukka Rask — just a little bit.
However, in the moments after the final horn sounded on a 1-0 Bruins win, it was Rask who was recognized in front of the sellout TD Garden crowd as the game’s First Star.
It’s tough to argue otherwise. Rask turned in one of his best performances of the season. He stopped all 40 shots he saw from the Devils, including a couple of big-time saves in the third period. The performance lacked any real highlight-reel saves, but that speaks to Rask’s solid play more than anything else.
He was calm, quiet and relaxed in between the pipes, and he was rewarded with the 14th shutout of his career.
“I felt comfortable,” Rask said. “I did a couple of extra days of work with the goalie coach and that helped. I felt comfortable. I felt like my angles were pretty good. Just one of those nights where you get some real good bounces, too, and you’ll take it.”
Rask was making his first appearance since Saturday in Philadelphia after Anton Khudobin got consecutive starts against Buffalo and Ottawa. Rask wasn’t given long to get back into the groove. He was tested early and often as the Devils put 17 shots on goal in the first period, setting the stage for a busy night for the Boston netminder.
Rask admitted that he wanted to keep the streak of impressive goalie play going, not to necessarily keep up with Khudobin, but to give the team another chance to win.
“Yeah, I mean obviously you want to keep it going, like when he plays, he’s really hot, you kind of, when you go out there you just want to keep that rhythm going for your team and get those wins,” Rask said. “Maybe it gives you that extra boost.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien continues to try and find ways to balance his goaltenders. The Bruins are obviously in their final month of the season, making it imperative that at least one of, if not both goaltenders are operating at their best. The decision to ride the hot hand (Khudobin) for the two games prior seemed to pay off not only in those games, but with a fresh Rask returning to the crease Thursday as well.
“Well, he was good tonight, you know, he was one of the reasons we won, obviously,” Julien said. “He made the big saves when he had to and kept us in the lead at times when they could have gotten themselves back into the game. He was good for us tonight, and sometimes a little bit of rest and a little bit of work with the goalie coach is what goaltenders need.”
Julien, Rask and the Bruins obviously found the right combination of rest and extra work for their No. 1 goalie. That’s why on a night reserved for Jagr, it was Rask who ultimately stole the show.