Bruins didn’t have to look too far back into history to know that a solid Game 1 win wouldn’t easily translate into a Game 2 victory.
After lighting the world on fire in Game 1 of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against Toronto just a couple weeks ago, the Bruins let the Maple Leafs rolls over them with a mistake-filled game in Game 2.
So the Bruins needed to be better in Game 2 of their second-round series with the New York Rangers than they were in Game 1 in order to avoid suffering a similar fate against a better team out for a bit of revenge.
You can credit Tuukka Rask with making sure that the Bruins didn’t have a similar Game 2 meltdown.
Rask finished the Bruins’ 5-2 win Sunday with 35 saves on 37 shots, as he helped the Bruins grab a 2-0 series lead heading into Game 3 Tuesday at Madison Square Garden. Rask made 15 of those saves on 16 second-period shots when the game and the series’ momentum were hanging in the balance.
“But second period you’ve got to give Tuukka a lot of credit. The turnovers and giveaways we had in the second period weren’t something that we do much, but certainly was something that could’ve been disastrous tonight,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “He did a great job and in the third period, we came out a much better team and found a way to score some goals here.”
With the score tied at one early in the middle period, Rask came up big on a Rick Nash end-to-end rush. Nash beat Rask later in the period to tie the game at 2, but Rask robbed Ryan McDonagh of a potential go-ahead goal at 5:35 from point-blank range and also got a piece of a Derek Stepan shot that then ricocheted off the post.
Eventually, the Bruins gave Rask another lead to work with on a Johnny Boychuk goal, and Rask kept the Rangers off the board the rest of the way.
“Yeah, that’s what you have to do sometimes. We were not at our best in the second period,” Rask said. “We gave up a lot of odd-man opportunities and a lot of turnovers and stuff, but they only got one goal so something positive came out of that period.”
It was a positive that could’ve made the difference between this series getting away from the Bruins and them holding a firm grasp on their own destiny. It’ll be easy to look back at Game 2 and think of the exciting goals scored by Boychuk, Torey Krug, Gregory Campbell, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic, and look at the final score, and remember just that the Bruins had the win the whole way.
But the Rangers were just that close to maybe getting their only lead of the night and then playing their best. One lead could’ve given them the confidence boost they needed. Although their slumping power play was 0-for-5, it fired seven shots at Rask. Any little bounce or unstoppable shot could’ve tilted the game and the series (with Game 3 and 4 set for New York) toward the Rangers.
Instead, Rask continued to make the days of Tim Thomas’ postseason heroics feel like ancient history. This is Rask’s team now. And if you were waiting for the goaltender to “steal one” this might’ve been the one – even if it wasn’t as dramatic as some of the performances we’ve witnessed from Thomas and other goaltenders around the league.
Rask was calm and collected again when the tension rose in Game 2. Once his offense gave him well-deserved support in the third period, there was nothing to stress about with a 2-0 series lead in hand.