Tuukka Rask was eager for a shot at redemption after acknowledging that he played poorly in the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh Saturday. Lucky for the goaltender he didn’t have to wait long for that chance.
Rask found himself back in net for Sunday’s matinee against the Panthers after receiving a reassuring text from coach Claude Julien Saturday night: “You’re back in there tomorrow.’’
Rask rebounded from his subpar effort and backstopped the Bruins to a 3-0 shutout before a TD Garden crowd of 17,565, who celebrated a return to normalcy in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings.
“I was glad to see that he played extremely well,’’ Julien said. “It shows you a lot about his character.’’
If anyone embodied the newly adopted slogan “Boston Strong’’ it was the Bruins’ wiry and tough goaltender, who was a big factor in the return of winning hockey to Causeway Street.
“I know we are a big part of this city and we want to help people and we also want to help ourselves by playing the best hockey we can,’’ said Rask (18-9-4), who recorded 28 saves to post his fourth shutout of the season.
It was also the 15th blanking of his career, and his second this month.
“I like getting shutouts,’’ Rask said. “But I think it was a tight game and they had some chances so I’m happier that I didn’t let in that goal and let them back in the game.
“That hadn’t always been the case for me, even this year, so that’s something to take from this game and build on.’’
The Bruins, who snapped a four-game winless skid, received goals from Jaromir Jagr at 3:03 of the first period, Dougie Hamilton at 13:33 of the second, and an empty-netter from Brad Marchand at 18:38 of the third.
“I mean, that first game [after the bombings] against the Buffalo Sabres, it was really emotional,’’ Rask said of the Bruins’ shootout loss Wednesday night. “We played a great game and just felt like we let the city down a bit not being able to get that win.
“Then [Saturday] it’s another opportunity, but I think things have kind of settled down now and people are trying to get back to normal lives. So, it’s time to play hockey for us.’’
Rask commemorated the victory by peeling off his No. 40 sweater and presenting it to Cambridge police officer Peter Vellucci.
“Sorry, but it’s a little wet,’’ Rask said as he handed over his sweaty sweater.
It was part of a special ceremony in which the Bruins honored the first responders, federal, state, and local law enforcement officials, firefighters, medical personnel, and race volunteers who pulled together to help the city in its time of need. Season ticket-holders usually get the jerseys, but they asked that they go to the Marathon heroes.
Rask’s effort boosted the Bruins and was timely, indeed, especially with the playoffs fast approaching.
“Tuukka’s got a lot of character, and he’s played well all year for us, and today was a perfect example,’’ said center Patrice Bergeron. “He made some huge saves. Early on, he made some great pad saves on the rebound.’’
None was bigger, or greater, than the kick save he made on Drew Shore at 14:08 of the first period. With the Bruins nursing a 1-0 lead delivered by Jagr’s top-shelf shot from the right circle, the Panthers stepped up their attack and pressed for the tying goal.
After Rask stopped a hard shot from the right point, the puck hovered perilously in the crease, prompting Shore to take a point-blank whack at it.
But Rask quickly recovered, shifting from right post to left, and made a brilliant kick save with his right pad.
“When you see a play like that, it gives us energy to keep going, to play in front of him the way we should,’’ Bergeron said.
“It was great to see his performance this afternoon.’’