BOSTON — Maybe the Bruins were still a little stuffed following their holiday meals or had stayed up a little late playing with whatever it was Santa brought them. Whatever the reason was, the B’s came out pretty lethargic in their return from the three-day holiday break.
Luckily for the Bruins, they had Tuukka Rask in net, and the Boston goalie was one of the few Bruins who showed no signs of a holiday hangover in the first period against Ottawa. Because of that, the B’s were able to overcome an iffy start and storm back for the 5-0 win at TD Garden.
Rask was tested early and often, as the Bruins’ sluggish start opened the ice for the Senators, and they certainly had their chances. The Sens put 15 shots on goal in the first period, and Rask was able stop each and every one of them.
Rask stopped all 33 shots he saw when it was all said and done, but those 15 first-period saves were easily the most important. The goalie kept the Bruins in the game, and that allowed them to start fresh in the second period where they started to impose their will against a lesser Ottawa club.
“They pretty much had all of their chances in that first period,” Rask said. “We had five [shots in the first], so that tells us a lot about that period. We weren’t skating, we weren’t hitting, we weren’t as sharp with some of our passes as we were in the last two periods. We talked about it after the first and fixed it and we were pretty dominant after that.”
Rask’s efforts were even more important given the fact that the Bruins were coming off the break. It’s never a given that a team will come out sharp, and that certainly wasn’t the case for the Bruins. That’s something that Rask anticipated entering the game.
“You just have to make sure that you’re not rusty because if you’re rusty, then your team’s screwed,” Rask said. “It takes a lot of energy mentally to stay sharp, but today I succeeded.”
The goalie was at his best in the first period, and then the team took over from there. What looked like it was going to be a difficult night for Rask turned into a laugher. The Bruins came out and dominated from the first shift of the second period through the final horn, as they were able to put up the go-ahead goal in the second period and then pour on four in the third period.
“We easily could have been down a couple of goals in the first period,” Bruins forward Milan Lucic said. “That’s why I think he’s been our best player throughout this year. He makes big saves like that in key moments and he gives us a chance to win. We talked about stepping up for him and playing well in the second and third and like I said, it was good that we were able to do that.”
The part about Rask being the Bruins’ best player is becoming tougher and tougher to argue. The Bruins goalie is one of those hot streaks right now where it seems like nothing will get by the goalie. He had his roughest night of the season Dec. 14 in Vancouver. Since that game, he has stopped 117 of the 120 shots he has faced and has won all four starts, including Friday against Ottawa. His goals against average over that stretch is a miniscule 0.75. Rask now has 20 wins on the season and 20 shutouts for his career.
That stats certainly back up Rask’s importance to his team, but sometimes a performance like his first-period showing on Friday does the trick just as well.
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