BOSTON — Same story, different verse.
After coming off an impressive 2009-10 season, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask fell victim to the dreaded sophomore slump. Some of it was his responsibility, but some was due to the Black and Gold not performing as well during his starts between the pipes.
Monday afternoon against the Avs, the Bruins once again did not put a good performance together in Tuukka’s first start of the year, being outshot 36-30 in their 1-0 loss at TD Garden.
“We need to help him along when he helps us,” forward Patrice Bergeron stated. “He’s helping us every time he steps in…and again tonight he made huge saves and he’s not the reason why we lost 1-0.”
From the start of the game, it seemed like the Bruins were out of sync.
After killing off the Avs’ first two power plays in the first period — thanks to Rask’s timely saves — the Bruins could not build off the momentum and had troubles generating scoring chances. The young Avs, meanwhile, kept the pedal to the metal and peppered Tuukka with several good scoring chances.
Despite the Bruins’ not getting much going, Tuukka got into a flow and kept the Bruins in the contest.
“I was telling Timmy [Thomas] before the game that I was little nervousness in me because it’s the first game and I haven’t played in a really long time,” said Rask, who made 35 saves in the losing effort. “Once the puck dropped and I got into that groove I felt pretty good.
“It’s not good when you go down 5-on-3, but after you survive that you gain that confidence,” Rask continued. “I felt good after that.”
Despite Rask’s efforts, the Avs ultimately had the last laugh.
At 7:57 of the third, Colorado finally got on the board when Milan Hejduk got one past Rask on a screen shot from the faceoff circle to give his team that one-goal lead. Coming off a 3-0 loss to Detroit on opening night, Hejduk’s goal snapped a scoreless span of 107 minutes and 57 seconds to open the season.
“We lost the draw and they kind of angled the puck to the middle of the faceoff circle,” Rask said about the goal he gave up. “He shot it and I think it hit a shin pad and it bounced in.”
“We tried to fire the puck through traffic,” Hejduk said. “The whole hockey game we tried to put somebody in front of the net so he can’t see the puck. There’s other things, but he was making all the saves.”
While he didn’t get help from his teammates, Rask acknowledged that the team give a full 60-minute effort in the loss.
“Still, wins matter right?” Rask said. “It doesn’t matter if you lose 10-0 or 1-0; a loss is still a loss. But we definitely did not play a full 60-minute effort today, that’s for sure.”
“He played great,” forward Milan Lucic said about the effort from his goaltender. “You can’t ask for much more than howe he played today. He kept us in it the whole night and gave usa chance to win it. And it sucks on the other end, because one of our players weren’t able to do anything for him down the other end.”
Last year, the Bruins averaged just 2.25 goals per game when Tuukka was in net compared to 3.32 when Thomas made a start.
The Black and Gold certainly hopes that stat changes as Rask expects to get a few more minutes after playing in just 29 games a year ago.
“He was probably the only bright light in this game today,” said head coach Claude Julien, who saw his team drop to 1-2 on the young season. “Had it not been for him, this game could have been over much sooner than it was. He kept us in there and gave us a chance, but we just didn’t respond.”