NEWARK - At first, when Tuukka Rask saw his goaltending partner hit the deck and rise to his skates slowly in the third period, he didn't think much of the play.
But then Glen Murray visited Rask at the end of the bench, informing the rookie to get ready if Tim Thomas had to leave.
And with 1:10 remaining in regulation last night, Rask tossed aside his Bruins cap, pulled on his mask, and took over in the crease for Thomas.
Then at 3:16 of overtime, on the third shot Rask saw, New Jersey sniper Patrik Elias lifted the puck over his glove to give the Devils - who had trailed by three after the first period - a 4-3 victory before 14,012 at the Prudential Center.
"Not the easiest one," Rask said of the situation. "You never know what happens. You have to be ready."
On the play that left him injured, Thomas was tracking a puck that came into his zone. As he shifted from right to left, his left skate appeared to get caught up with the post. A crouching Thomas remained down on one knee, and once the puck left the zone, the whistle was blown to stop play.
Trainer Don DelNegro left the bench to tend to Thomas. After several minutes, Thomas came off and Rask went in. Thomas remained in the runway behind the bench, walking up and down and flexing his left leg.
Coach Claude Julien said Thomas (28 saves) suffered a lower-body injury. Thomas was not available for comment.
"I don't know exactly," said Julien. "Lower-body injury. We'll put it that way for now. He's being evaluated. It happened at the end. I don't think I need to say more than that because I'm not even 100 percent sure."
Rask, who hadn't seen action since Nov. 26, had to stare down a rolling New Jersey club - the Devils won their eighth straight - that roared back to tie in the third.
The Bruins dominated the first period, getting pucks deep on the Devils and taking advantage of their defensive shakiness. Zdeno Chara, Glen Murray, and Dennis Wideman cranked slap shots past Martin Brodeur, giving the Bruins a 3-0 lead on 11 shots.
But Brodeur, despite his first-period struggles, showed why he's one of the best goalies ever. In the second period, he saw forward Jamie Langenbrunner make a sloppy backhand pass that landed on the stick of Phil Kessel, who had stepped out of the box after serving a hooking penalty.
Kessel took off, veering down the right wing and snapping a top-shelf wrister. But Brodeur flashed his glove and snared the puck at 4:40. Just over two minutes later, New Jersey scored its first goal.
On the play, Kessel won an offensive-zone draw against Elias. But the Boston forwards got caught too deep, allowing New Jersey to regain the puck and kick off an odd-man rush the other way. Elias streaked up the ice and put himself in position to redirect winger Brian Gionta's shot past Thomas at 6:51.
Zach Parise, the left wing on the line, scored a power-play goal at 15:51 of the second, jamming a close-range shot under Thomas's pads. Parise nearly tied the game in the final minute of the period, but Thomas made a sharp save with his left pad.
Parise got his revenge in the third. Defenseman Sheldon Brookbank settled the puck at the right point and flipped a shot toward Thomas. Parise (two goals, two assists), floating in the high slot, batted the puck past Thomas at 14:03 for the tying goal.
"The thing, I think, that our team really has to look at is being able to stay in your game for 60 minutes," said Julien. "We come out hard in the first. We do the same for the first half of the second. Then we lose focus. We start making little mental mistakes that end up in our net. We got away from our game for a while. We came back in the third and still had some chances. It could have been different. But those 10- to 15-minute lapses are crucial against good teams like the Devils."
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.