Backstopped by Rask, Bruins break out on Leafs
With every save he makes in Black and Gold (63 during his last two victories over Toronto), Tuukka Rask makes the bile in the Maple Leafs’ mouth taste even more acrid. Last night, there was none bigger than the second-period stop on Tomas Kaberle.
Rask, the first-round pick dealt to Boston by Toronto for Andrew Raycroft, was playing with a two-goal lead. Kaberle, the Leafs’ offensive defenseman who nearly became a Bruin at the 2009 draft, took a cross-ice pass from Rickard Wallin and saw an open net when he got the puck in the slot.
Kaberle could have made it a 2-1 game. But that’s when high-end goalies make big-time saves.
Amid a tangle of bodies in the crease, Rask sprang from left to right. At the last moment, he flashed out his right pad to get a piece of Kaberle’s attempt. On the following breakout, the Bruins scored the decisive goal in last night’s 5-2 victory before 17,565 at TD Garden.
“I just got across,’’ said Rask. “I got my leg across, he didn’t get the puck up, and I made the save. It was a big save because we scored right after that. Sometimes it’s a huge help when you make a so-called timely save. We got the breakaway and we scored, so it was huge for us.’’
After Rask made the save, Luke Schenn recovered the puck and got a follow-up shot. But David Krejci stepped in front of the shot, then went the other way after blocking the attempt. Krejci slipped behind Kaberle and attacked Vesa Toskala (29 saves).
The Toronto netminder bit hard on Krejci’s head-and-shoulders fake and left the right side of the net open. With a flick of his wrists, Krejci tucked the puck in at 11:10.
“I just blocked it and I saw the chance to go for it,’’ said Krejci. “I tried to get on my horse. I think [Schenn] kind of fell a little bit, so it was a little break for me. I was all alone, so I was just thinking about what kind of move I would do.’’
No goal for the Leafs. Goal for the Bruins. Two-goal swing in 10 seconds.
“He’s paid his dues,’’ coach Claude Julien said of Rask, who made his second straight start. “He’s been in the minors for a few years and he’s been itching to get up here.
“I thought our upper management did a great job of keeping him in the minors for the right reasons. He was the No. 1 and got a lot of games under his belt. Now he gets an opportunity to come up here. Every time you give him an opportunity to play, he’s responded well and played well for us.
“He’s very calm. I think he’s getting good results because what I see as the biggest difference in Tuukka from his first year to now is how he is in practice. His work ethic in practice is so much better. He’s starting to get rewarded in games for that.’’
The combination of Rask’s save and Krejci’s goal ended up being a focal point of the victory. Down, 3-0, after 40 minutes (Mark Stuart and Derek Morris scored Boston’s first two goals), the Leafs came at the Bruins hard to start the third.
With Jason Blake jamming in front of the net, Mikhail Grabovski beat Rask with a wrister from the slot only 18 seconds into the period. Less than four minutes later, Mike Komisarek, from the right point, spotted Nikolai Kulemin streaking back-door. Kulemin took Komisarek’s feed and tucked a shot under the crossbar at 4:09, prompting Julien to call a timeout.
“They’ve played a couple games in a short period of time,’’ Rask said. “But they still had a lot of energy left. They came at us hard and played good.’’
But Blake halted Toronto’s momentum by clipping Zdeno Chara in the face with a high stick in the offensive zone at 15:59. On the power play, Mark Recchi tipped a Patrice Bergeron shot that Toskala stopped with his pad. Recchi hunted down the rebound and put another shot on goal, but Toskala reached back and swiped it out with his stick.
Recchi, however, remained in the net-front area, and when Blake Wheeler scooped up the puck, steered wide of the Toronto penalty-killing box, then threw it out front, Old Man Rex was in the perfect position to tip the pass home and give the Bruins a commanding 4-2 advantage.
“Wheels made a great pass over, and he actually made a pad save to top it off,’’ said Recchi, who added an empty-net goal in the final minute. “Then I was fortunate to have it bounce right back on my stick. I stuck around the net and got rewarded for staying around there.’’