Somewhere in the United Center in Chicago, there’s a kitchen sink missing. That’s because the Blackhawks threw everything — including the kitchen sink — at the Bruins in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night.
The Hawks came out like gangbusters, looking to build on any sort of momentum that may have built after their triple-overtime win in Game 1. To say the ice was tilted would be an understatement. Chicago gave the Bruins everything it had in the first 20 minutes, but it only took a 1-0 lead to the dressing room.
That’s because the Bruins had Tuukka Rask in net, and the Boston netminder did everything he could to make sure Patrick Sharp‘s goal 11:22 into the first was all the Blackhawks would get. The Hawks put 19 shots on net in the first, and Rask stopped 18 of them.
“Well, we were definitely in survival mode there for a bit,” Rask said. “It looked like they had more guys out there than we did. They were bouncing on every single puck in front of the net, had a lot of chances. We definitely played pretty bad. But, you know, it was good that we were only down by one and regrouped after that.”
Thanks to Rask’s efforts, the Bruins went to their own dressing room trailing just 1-0 after the first period where they were able to regroup, knowing full well it could have been a lot worse.
“We were certainly grateful Tuukka played the way he did for us in the first,” Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg said. “We knew we shouldn’t have been down by one. They had so many chances, so many shots on net and Tuukka saved us quite a few times. For us to be only down one, we knew we were lucky.”
It wasn’t just the volume of chances that Rask had to turn away, but it was also the quality of chances. Rask’s early glove save on Nick Leddy set the tone, but he also made big saves on Sharp, Marian Hossa and Michael Frolik to keep the game in check.
The Bruins appeared to make it a point to repay Rask after the first period. The Bruins tightened up in all three zones, and they limited the Blackhawks’ chances the rest of the night. After the 19 first-period shots, Chicago could only muster 15 shots total in the second, third and overtime periods.
“I think obviously our players responded to that [first-period performance],” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. “We at least gave him a little bit of an opportunity to catch his breath again. That first period, like I said, was extremely hard for him. But thankfully our guys rewarded him with that effort by being a lot better in front of him for the rest of that game.”
Those rewards culminated with Daniel Paille‘s game-winning goal in overtime to even the series.
It’s a well-deserved reward for Rask who is certainly on the short list of Conn Smythe Award front-runners. Rask is now 13-5-2 with a 1.73 goals against average (good for second in the league by just .01 goals) for the playoffs, and he boasts a league-leading .944 save percentage. He’s already seen 97 shots in the first two games of the Cup Final, stopping 92 of them with a couple of fluky tallies in the Game 1 loss.
“No question about it, if you have a good goalie, a confident goalie, it gives you extra confidence for the team,” Bruins winger Jaromir Jagr said. “When the goalies are in the zone, no matter how good you are, it’s tough to score on them. I can see it in practices, I don’t think — I haven’t scored in the games, but I don’t think I’ve scored in practices.”
The Bruins got away with one of their worst periods in a long time Saturday night, and they’re still able to head home with the series tied. They owe Rask a big thank you for that.