Rask handled rebounds
Flyer comebacks didn’t rattle him
The opening game of the Eastern Conference semifinal between the Bruins and Flyers was a wild ride, Boston’s early domination dissolving into Philadelphia’s energetic rebound. By the end of three periods, the Bruins twice had taken a two-goal lead, and twice had lost it, and then edged ahead by a goal midway through the third period only to give up the tying goal on a bit of bad defense.
While the teams splashed around him, Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask refused to get washed out. The 23-year-old Finn, 22-12-5 in the regular season with a league-leading 1.97 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage, has won five of his last six playoff starts and has the confidence that follows that sort of success.
Still, while no one in the building was happier than Marc Savard after he claimed a 5-4 victory for the Bruins with his overtime goal, it’s likely no one was more relieved than Rask.
“It was one of those games with a lot of offense,’’ said Rask. “You can’t blame yourself too much when one team gets the lead, but the other team just won’t quit.’’
Rask had an easy time in the first, when the Bruins outshot the Flyers, 15-8, but his job got harder.
“It was a battle, a tough game,’’ said Rask, who faced 36 shots from the Flyers, 11 in the second period when Philadelphia twice shook off a two-goal deficit to close within one.
“There were huge momentum swings in the game and I thought we did a pretty good job of reacting,’’ said Dennis Wideman, who had three assists, including one on the winner, but who played a part in the botched play that led to the Flyers’ tying score.
“In the second and third, we were killing off a lot of penalties and they just got a whole lot of momentum.’’
Ryan Parent began the Flyers’ second-period surge, scoring the first playoff goal of his career at 7:38 with a shot from the top of the slot that beat Rask to the blocker side.
The next Flyer goal came off the stick of veteran defenseman Chris Pronger; he connected on the power play with a shot from the right circle, another puck that dipped under Rask’s blocker.
Though a handful of players were tangled up in front of the net, Rask could see Pronger, and he could see the shot.
“The first two ones, I can have those because they both went in the same spot from the blocker side,’’ Rask said. “It went through my 7-hole, whatever they call it. It’s something that when it goes through you, you’re thinking about what’s going on because you really have to make that save. He made a good shot, but I think I could have that.’’
At first, Rask was patient and described the play, and what he might have done. He was patient the second time he got the same question, offering a shorter description. By the third time, he got straight to the point.
“I saw it, it went through me, bad goal,’’ he said.
But like his teammates in this uneven game, Rask shrugged his shoulders at the setback, blinked, and refocused.
Even when Philadelphia tied the game at 16:38 of the third period with a goal that made three Bruins look bad, Rask was calm. Daniel Briere did the damage, bursting through the middle of the ice on a one-on-two, splitting Wideman and Matt Hunwick, and flicking a shot at Rask. Briere picked up his own rebound and dumped it into the net.
Rask followed with a handful of difficult saves in the final minutes; then in overtime, he first stopped trailer Scott Hartnell and then turned back Danny Carcillo on a breakaway, setting the scene for Savard’s winner.
“You don’t want to think about losing the game when it’s going to overtime,’’ Rask said. “The only thing that’s in your mind is to get that one goal and get the win.
“Sometimes it’s tough — you kind of freeze and you don’t know what’s going on when you give up the lead and go into overtime. A lot of times the team that scored those two goals will get the win. But today we answered really good and we really put up a great effort.’’