BOSTON — Wild. Frantic. Insane.
Game 7 of the Boston Bruins’ first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Toronto Maple Leafs was all of that. It was a heart-stopping 60 minutes that had the patrons of TD Garden searching for oxygen tanks as the B’s scored four goals in the third period to advance to the second round.
“For entertainment value that was probably one of the better Game 7s you’ll see,” Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask said after the win. “It was offense going both ways, and goalie’s kind of a nightmare there.”
A nightmare it was. At least for two periods.
The 31-year-old Rask was a bit shaky to open the winner-take-all affair, surrendering two goals to Patrick Marleau in the opening six minutes. After the Bruins recaptured the lead, Rask was victimized by bad luck and sloppy play in front of him, letting up two goals in the second period to give Toronto a 4-3 edge after two.
Despite a less than stellar start in net, Rask remained confident and came up big during the B’s four-goal onslaught in the final period, stopping all eight shot sent his way.
“You try to stay tall there and play your angles right and make some saves,” Rask said. “Definitely, it’s a little easier when you have experience from that kind of game, I was trying to stay calm and battle through it.”
That mentality served Rask well in the third period, as he refused to let the Leafs regain momentum after the B’s captured it to begin the final frame.
Three minutes after the B’s took a 5-4 lead courtesy of Jake DeBrusk’s second goal of the game, Rask saved a shot from Connor Brown and stonewalled a rebound attempt from Zach Hyman before covering up the puck. Boston scored three minutes later to take a 6-4 lead and that was all she wrote.
Nerves overflow in Game 7s. That was apparent through two periods for both Rask and his teammates, with shaky play in the defensive zone, mishandled pucks and missed opportunities plaguing Boston early in the high-strung atmosphere.
But when it was winning time, Rask did all the Bruins could have asked of him between the pipes.
He battled. And now the Bruins are headed to Tampa Bay.
Here are more notes from Bruins-Leafs Game 7:
— Bruins captain Zdeno Chara played in his 12th Game 7 on Wednesday night, the most among active NHL players.
— Danton Heinen notched his first career playoff goal during the first period Wednesday. The rookie gathered the puck off a pass from Rick Nash, turned and ripped a shot past Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen.
— Patrice Bergeron set two Bruins’ playoff records Wednesday night. Bergeron scored a goal and tallied two assists in Game 7 against the Leafs, giving him nine career points in do-or-die Game 7s, passing Rick Middleton for most Game 7 points in franchise history. He also passed Milan Lucic for Game 7 goals in Bruins history with his first-period tally.
— Rask finished the series with a .891 save percentage.
— Rask improved to 2-2 in his career in Game 7s on Wednesday. He now has allowed at least three goals in each Game 7 he has played in.
— DeBrusk scored his fourth and fifth goals of the series in Game 7, including the game-winner in the third period.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images