The numbers certainly speak for themselves when it comes to Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask and his past performances against the Montreal Canadiens. And they don’t say very nice things about him.
Entering Wednesday’s game, Rask had struggled mightily against Boston’s hated rival. His career record was 2-10-2, with just a .899 save percentage and a 2.88 goals against average. Some of the problems are a reflection of the Bruins’ recent struggles against the Canadiens, but those are far from the types of numbers we’ve become accustomed to seeing next to Rask’s name.
Things have been even dicier this season for Rask against Montreal. He had been 0-2 in two starts against the Habs, having allowed five goals on just 45 shots and being pulled during a Jan. 30 loss to the Canadiens.
Rask did a good job of improving those numbers Wednesday night, though, stopping 35 of the 36 shots he faced in a 4-1 win over the Canadiens. It marked Rask’s first win over Montreal since Feb. 6 of last season, snapping a four-start losing streak against the longtime foes.
The Bruins had to know they would get an inspired effort out of the Canadiens early on, especially in front of a rowdy Bell Centre crowd. That certainly was the case, as Montreal used its speed through the neutral zone to generate chances early and often. The Habs put 14 shots on goal in the first period, but Rask was able to help the Bruins withstand the early charge. He stopped all 14 of those shots, including a game-changing save on a Max Pacioretty breakaway.
Rask’s performance Wednesday night is just the latest in what’s becoming countless instances in which he stands on his head in the first period, allowing the Bruins to find their game and eventually roll to a win.
Rask’s effort, much like the Bruins’ showing, was a 60-minute one, as the goaltender was big whenever the Bruins needed him to be. He made a couple of crucial saves when the Boston fourth line was on tired legs in the second period, and that led to Milan Lucic’s goal that all but sealed the game. Rask was good in the third period as well, despite giving up the Canadiens’ lone goal of the game, a rather fluky tally at the end of a mad scramble in front of the Boston cage.
It’s all why on a night when just about the entire Bruins roster contributed one way or another, Rask — the game’s No. 1 star — again was the best player on the ice.