Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask just looked to be skating back to the bench at the end of the second period in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final. That’s where he came across Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
The two made a little bit of contact, which led to a little bit of stickwork between the two and eventually a shove from Crosby. That was about the closest that any Penguin came to pushing Rask around in the first game of the conference final.
Rask stopped all 29 shots in the Bruins’ 3-0 win over the Penguins giving the B’s the 1-0 series lead, and Boston is just three wins away from reaching its second Stanley Cup Final in three years. In a postseason that’s featured a handful of impressive performances from Rask, Saturday night’s showing may have been his best.
The Boston goalie was good all night, but he was especially effective in the early going. The Penguins started the game like they were shot out of a cannon, and Rask was there to keep things sane. Pittsburgh put 12 shots on Rask in the first, but he withstood the barrage with some key saves. Rask made saves on both Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, and that set the tone for what would be a frustrating night for the Pens.
Rask was especially good when the Penguins were on the power play. The vaunted Pittsburgh PP came in having scored on 23.8 percent of its power-play opportunities, but the B’s were successful on all four Pittsburgh power plays. That was thanks in large part to Rask stopping all nine power-play shots he faced. Two of those came on a 1-2 bid from Malkin and then Crosby on the Pens’ first power play.
On a night where there could have been rust on either side, Rask was arguably the sharpest player on the ice, and that made the difference.
“We did some work before practice and worked on all of the things they wanted to work on,” Bruins coach Claude Julien told reporters after the game. “Those were things that obviously helped us, and he got some rest. He wasn’t good, he was outstanding.”
While Rask isn’t a player who’s short on confidence, Saturday’s performance can’t hurt his psyche. Like most goalies, Rask was pedestrian at best against Pittsburgh this year. He was 0-2 with a 2.54 goals against average while allowing five goals on 42 shots. The Game 1 victory marked just Rask’s second win over the Penguins for his career.
The Penguins are going to respond, and the Bruins probably know that better than anyone else. If they can get anything close to what they got from the “outstanding” Rask for the rest of the series, they’re going to certainly like their chances.