Tuukka Rask, the Boston Bruins’ all-time leader in goalie wins, grabbed his first victory of the 2021-22 season following the team’s 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden.
Making his return to the net for the first time since June 9, Rask registered 25 saves, while David Pastrnak powered the offense with his first hat trick of the year as Boston claimed its fourth win in a row.
Pastrnak put the Bruins ahead less than two minutes into the game with a wicked wrister, before No. 88 tucked in his second of the night on a power-play strike shortly after to make it 2-0 Boston.
A sloppy second period from the Bruins allowed the Flyers to tie the score at 2-2 on goals from Cam Atkinson and Joel Farabee. However, another power-play goal from Pastrnak put Boston back on top, 3-2, before the end of the middle frame.
The third featured a desperate Philadelphia squad that threw nearly everything at Rask in net, including a few hectic minutes late in the game with the Flyers net empty. A pair of delay of game penalties from the Bruins also nearly foiled Rask’s return late in regulation, but the Bruins escaped with two more points in the standings with a familiar face back in the fold.
“In terms of tracking the puck and playing the game and stopping the puck, I’d say it looked like old Tuukka,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said.
Here’s what we learned from Boston’s second win in as many nights.
Rask’s homecoming went off without a hitch
It won’t go down as one of Rask’s busier nights in net, but it certainly was a momentous one for the Finnish netminder.
After recovering from offseason hip surgery and signing a one-year, $1 million contract earlier this week, Rask didn’t look out of place during his first game in 218 days.
“It felt like I was home, basically,” Rask said. “The start wasn’t the easiest. There’s no shots for I don’t know how many minutes. Luckily there were a couple feel-good shots, then you kind of get yourself in it.
“It was a good first game from a goaltending perspective to get those feel-good shots and then get yourself back in it,” Rask said.
A slow first period from the Flyers allowed Rask to settle in before a much more active second and third periods whipped Boston’s veteran goalie back into shape. Rask also stoned Farabee and Atkinson on two separate breakaway attempts, with the latter coming shortly after the Bruins regained the lead late in the second.
Rask faced six shots after the first period, then saw a combined 21 pucks through the next two.
Getting to test out his healed hip in game action for the first time, Rask noted he felt back to normal, particularly during quick reactions and extension saves.
“When you have to react to something that’s like a deflection and stuff, you go both knees down and then you have to extend your right leg. Those were the things that I had to avoid for the most part, “Rask said. “If it’s controlled, I can kind of stop myself from going too far.”
Other than one save in the first period in which Rask never saw the puck, it was business as usual for the former Vezina winner, who brought a sense of composure to the crease, especially later on versus Philadelphia.
More goals for Pastrnak and Boston’s power play
Following in Brad Marchand’s footsteps, Pastrnak picked up his 11th career hat trick on Thursday to push his total goals up to 16.
“For me, the first goal was big for us as a line,” Pastrnak said. “It was great work. We got a turnover and I think none of us had the puck on our stick longer than one second, but we all touched it and it ended up in the back of the net. I think that was a big goal for us as a line, as a new line working on new chemistry.”
Boston’s second line of Pastrnak, Erik Haula and Taylor Hall continues to produce as Haula picked up his 11th point of the season and Hall earned his fifth assist in his past four games.
Pastrnak has been a scoring machine through six games this month recording eight goals, with three of those tallies coming on the man advantage.
A beautiful back-door pass from Marchand set Pastrnak up for his first power-play goal Thursday night. Then the 25-year-old unleashed a ferocious one-timer in the third period to put the Bruins ahead for good.
If there was any doubt about whether or not Pastrnak had regained his scoring touch, it was put to rest after his latest three-goal performance.
The two power-play goals on Thursday upped Boston’s man-advantage markers to 22 through 34 games this season. Pastrnak leads the team with seven.
Charlie McAvoy also finished the night with a pair of power-play assists.
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