He’d been shuttling back and forth between Boston and Providence (AHL) for three weeks while Manny Fernandez tried to get his back problems straightened out.
Then Jan. 31 with the New York Rangers in the Hub for a big matinee, Bruins prospect goaltender Tuukka Rask finally got his first start of the 2008-09 season. What ensued over the next 60 minutes ranks No. 10 on the list of the Bruins’ best victories of the regular season.
The Bruins were in the thick of a stretch of seven consecutive games against major rivals from the Eastern Conference, but with a matinee scheduled for the next day in Montreal head coach Claude Julien decided to rest Tim Thomas and throw Rask into the fire against a less-than-potent Rangers offense. However, the Rangers looked nothing like their misfiring selves that day with 35 shots on net to just 27 for the Bruins.
Rask was up to the task against every attempt by the Rangers, including five each from Markus Naslund and Scott Gomez. The stupendous puck-stopping of the rookie made sure that Marc Savard’s goal on a tip of a Dennis Wideman shot with 23 seconds remaining in the third period stood up for a crucial regulation victory.
Less than a week later, Fernandez was ready to at least serve as the back-up and Rask was back sent back to Providence to finish a stellar second AHL season, during which he lead the P-Bruins to the Eastern Conference finals. While he wasn’t called upon to help Boston again, Rask gave the franchise a positive glimpse at the future in the midst of a winter of milestones and momentous occasions.