If there was ever any doubts about Tuukka Rask going into the postseason, then he pretty much silenced his critics.
Heading into the 2013 season, the big question was whether or not Rask was ready to take the reigns from Tim Thomas. He responded with a resume worthy of a Vezina Trophy finalist going 19-10-5 with a league leading five shutouts to go along with his .929 save percentage (third among goalies) and a 2.00 goals against average (fifth).
The Vezina finalists were announced before the Boston Bruins took the ice against the Toronto Maple Leafs for Game 4 of their best of seven series Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre. Rask’s name was not among the three candidates, but that didn’t stop him from helping his team.
Rask, who made a postseason career-high 45 saves in Game 3, matched that total in the Bruins’ 4-3 overtime victory in Game 4. But it was Rask’s bounce back ability after giving up the first goal on the game’s first shot to Joffery Lupul just 2:35 in, that stood out the most.
With a steady back and forth pace throughout the 60-plus minutes, Rask kept his composure throughout Wednesday’s game. That was evident when Lupul had a golden chance to tie the series with the Leafs early in overtime, but Rask was able to make the glove save to keep things tied.
Eventually, that led to David Krejci’s overtime winner at 13:06 of the extra session to complete his hat trick and give the Bruins a 3-1 series lead.
“I thought Tuukka made a great save there on Lupul. He was screened and stuck the glove out to make the save,” head coach Claude Julien said. “That was huge for us. You need some breaks for us in overtime and then we made our own and we scored on the opportunity that was given to us.”
Rask and company will have a chance to close out the series in Game 5 Friday night at the TD Garden.
It’s no secret that the fourth win in any series is always the toughest one to get. But after struggling late in the regular season, the Bruins certainly have momentum on their side, and a hot goalie to help their cause at just the right time.
“It would be nice obviously. That’s what we’re going to try to do,” Rask said about potentially closing out the season on Friday. “It’s going to be for sure that they are going to come out hard and battle us really hard. We’ll see what happens.”
Tuukka has come a long way since tending the Bruins net in the epic collapse against the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010. And his ability to steal a contest is a big factor why the Black and Gold are in position for another series clincher.
It’s safe to say that Rask is proving himself as one of the elite goaltenders in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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