Rask again up to the task for Bruins
BOSTON — Tuukka Rask knew this night would come. There was no way the Penguins' top-ranked offense would be contained for the entirety of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference final.
Through the first two games of the series — both Bruins wins — Rask faced a comfortable 56 shots and stopped 55 of them. The Penguins mustered 29 shots in their 3-0 loss in Game 1 and 27 in their 6-1 defeat in Game 2.
With their season basically on the line, the Penguins ramped up their offensive assault a notch and peppered Rask with 54 shots in Game 3 Wednesday night at TD Garden.
But on a night when the rest of the Bruins weren't at their best, Rask stopped a career-high 53 of them before Patrice Bergeron's goal with 4:41 left in the second overtime earned the Bruins a 2-1 victory and a 3-0 series lead.
“They were 100 percent (better),” Rask said. “We didn't get clear chances, as many as we did the last two games. They tied it up and then came with the offense pretty hard, too. Especially in that second period. I thought we took some penalties that got us going a little bit in the wrong direction. But Pittsburgh played a great game today.”
The Finnish goaltender came up biggest during the third period and overtime. He was under siege in the third, as the Penguins held a 14-4 shot advantage. In overtime, when the Bruins had to kill a Chris Kelly penalty, he again had to stop several chances.
Early in the third, Rask stopped Beau Bennett on a wrist shot from 40 feet. After the Penguins tracked down the rebound, Sidney Crosby's one-timer hit the right post.
The Penguins rattled the other post with less than five minutes to go in regulation, when Evgeni Malkin took the puck from Zdeno Chara and darted between the circles. He beat Rask but didn't light the lamp.
Rask was on his game from the start with a perfect 10-for-10 performance in the first 20 minutes.
Chris Kunitz's one-timer from the right of the slot 8:51 into the second period tied the game at 1 while the teams were at full strength. Still Rask couldn't be blamed, as Crosby won a clean faceoff, and after Paul Martin went around Bergeron, his cross-ice feed got to Kunitz, whose shot got by Rask to the short side.
As the longest game of Rask's NHL career wore on, he had to battle fatigue as much as the Penguins' shots.
“I don't think you feel that physical fatigue at that point,” Rask said. “It's just trying to keep your head and not thinking that you're tired. It's just a mental challenge. If you think you're tired, you're tired.”
He was up to that challenge and now has the Bruins one win away from a trip to the Stanley Cup final.
Matt Kalman is a freelance writer.