November 8, 2011

At long last, B's finally reward Rask with a victory

by Andrew Merritt

Goalie Tuukka Rask is congratulated by Joe Corvo on his first win of the season. (Getty)

BOSTON – Three games isn’t exactly a lot of hockey. But when those three games are losses, and they’re spread out over a month, it can start to feel like an eternity.

The Bruins finally got Tuukka Rask his first victory of the season Monday night, and did so with gusto in a 6-2 trouncing of the New York Islanders. He only faced 26 shots from the Islanders, and turned aside all but two, but it was what happened 180 feet away from him that made the difference.

In his first three outings, the Bruins scored a combined three goals, including a 1-0 shutout against Colorado on Oct. 10. Monday night at the Garden, Rask’s skating teammates were a lot more forward-thinking, and put 36 shots on Evgeni Nabokov and Al Montoya, chasing the former after just 14:07 and three goals scored.

“We talked about it for a while here,” said Patrice Bergeron, who connected a beautiful pass from behind the Islander goal line extended to Tyler Seguin’s stick, setting up the sophomore’s team-leading eighth goal of the season and the eventual game winner.

“(Rask) deserves many more wins than what he’s got right now. We had to do it for him. We weren’t sharp in front of him and that’s our fault we didn’t get the wins before. But we’re really happy for him and he got us through the game tonight.”

Rask’s first win felt long-awaited, and the stoic Finn even admitted to a little frustration after three solid outings but no victories.

“Obviously it’s more fun to win than lose,” he said. “I was a little frustrated obviously, but not too crazy. I knew it would come. We were playing bad as a team at the beginning of the season too, so it was just bad luck there. It feels good obviously.”

The Islanders were a good bet to be the team that gave Rask his first victory, too. He entered Monday night’s game with a 3-1-0 record against the men of Long Island, the lone loss coming on Nov. 16, 2009. He won both of his games against them last season, stopping 33 of 35 shots in a 5-2 win on Dec. 9, 2010, then making 34 saves on 37 shots in a 6-3 victory on Feb. 17, 2011.

Still, Bruins coach Claude Julien said the past success wasn’t the reason for Rask’s turn in net – it was just the Finn’s time.

“No, we talked about him getting some opportunities here, so it basically was something we had thought of using no matter what,” Julien said. “When you look at Timmy (Thomas), with a shutout (against Toronto on Saturday), it would have been easy to go back with Timmy, but we’re sticking with kind of our plan right now. (Rask is) the guy that played well against them, but it was also his time to step in tonight.”

Julien did agree with his players that Rask’s 0-fer record before Monday night had nothing to do with quality of play – at least not Rask’s play.

“I think it was just a matter of time,” Julien said. “I don’t think we ever questioned his play, and even in those games we lost, it was pretty obvious that his game was fine. It was it was us in front of him that weren’t doing a very good job, so tonight the players played much better in front of him and gave him some cushion as well, and he was able to play his game comfortably.”