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It’s a double dose for Rask

Julien changes his course and is rewarded with a win

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask stops a Darryl Boyce attempt, one of his 36 saves in Toronto. Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask stops a Darryl Boyce attempt, one of his 36 saves in Toronto. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press/Associated Press)
By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / January 4, 2011

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TORONTO — Well, lookee there. Right there, in the Boston net. Tuukka Rask, last seen yanked from duty after only 20 minutes Saturday night in Buffalo, was back starting last night against the Maple Leafs.

In and of itself, it wasn’t surprising, except that coach Claude Julien Saturday and Sunday sounded as if he wouldn’t pencil in No. 40 for a start until Rask underwent a puckstopping refresher course with goalie coach Bob Essensa.

The coach clearly did an about-face, and the 23-year-old Rask made his 12th start this season and his second in as many games. It was also only the second time this year that Rask, who improved to 3-7-1 after Boston’s 2-1 win, was called upon in back-to-back games.

So why the turnaround?

According to Julien, it was the plan all along, and Rask said after the win over the Leafs that Julien told him before Sunday’s workout that he would get the start last night. Julien went so far as to say he had not intentionally misguided the Boston media Saturday and Sunday when he clearly voiced frustration over Rask’s game and had him pegged for a Boston tutorial with Essensa.

“I didn’t want to put attention on him,’’ said Julien. “I wanted him to be able to breathe a little. So now he can have all the attention you guys want to give him.’’

It’s possible that Julien, who noted after Sunday’s workout in Etobicoke, Ont., that Rask needed to regain his confidence, chatted with general manager Peter Chiarelli about all things Black-and-Gold goaltending.

It could be that Chiarelli expressed concern that another night off for Rask, who had not played since Dec. 15 before Saturday night’s start, might put at risk the young goalie’s overall shotblocking pysche.

It’s equally possible Julien consulted with Essensa after Rask’s performance Saturday and Essensa supported giving Rask another go.

Rask, despite his poor record, has not played poorly this season. However, he has not been sharp, far more mediocre than magnificent, and mediocre doesn’t cut it in today’s NHL. He gave up three goals in his brief showing Saturday night, and the worst of the bunch came in the closing seconds of the first period when he failed to cover up a loose puck at the base of the right post, only to have Drew Stafford mash it in to cut Boston’s lead to 4-3.

Another contributing factor in Rask’s quick-turn renaissance could be that iron man Tim Thomas, with only two nights off since Nov. 28, showed traces of fatigue in his four appearances on the five-game trip that began Dec. 27. It could be that Julien considered Rask’s poor start, weighed it against Thomas’s daunting workload, then opted to give Rask the start.

“Tim’s been great for us, but he needs a break, too,’’ Julien said after last night’s game. “So, yes, Tim needs a rest, but you also have to show [Rask] that you’ve got confidence in him.’’

On the defensive The Bruins, who set a club record Saturday night when four of their defensemen (Zdeno Chara, Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg and Steven Kampfer) scored a goal, equaled the league high-water mark, held by a number of clubs, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. ESB’s Bob Waterman reports that the Bruins had three goals scored by defensemen a few times in their history. Most recently: Dec. 31, 2007 when Matt Lashoff, Mark Stuart, and Dennis Wideman each hammered one home.

Missing the mark Shawn Thornton missed a chance to provide the jawbreaker with 9:06 gone in the third and the Bruins leading, 2-1. Set up by Brad Marchand at the right post, he tried to pick the top right corner on goalie James Reimer. “And I only missed by, what, 12 or 24 inches. Nice, huh?’’ said Thornton. “I didn’t even think I could get a shot off that fast, and then that happens.’’ . . . Marc Savard, who slammed home the winning goal, needs to sharpen his faceoff skills. He went 3 for 12 at the dot . . . The Leafs outhit the Bruins by a wide margin, 24-7, and had an 18-9 shot edge in the final period. Probably one of those nights when the losing team merited the 1-point door prize that comes via an overtime or shootout loss. But Rask got in the way of the Leafs taking home hockey’s version of the youth soccer everyone-gets-a-trophy point.

Kessel struggling Ex-Bostonian Phil Kessel, on a pace that might leave him short of 30 goals this season, started at right wing on a line with newcomer Joey Crabb (LW) and Tyler Bozak (C). Kessel landed a game-high eight shots and was firing right to the end; one of his slot slappers was blocked as the final horn blew. He took a total of 15 shots (seven of which were blocked or missed the net) . . . The 7-6 shootout loss in Buffalo was the Bruins’ first this season in a game in which they scored four or more goals (10-0-1) . . . The Bruins now are halfway through their 2010-11 road schedule, with 21 more away games to go. They have 23 left on Causeway Street, including Thursday night’s visit by the Wild. The St. Paulists as of yesterday were 13th in the West, 4 points shy of a playoff berth . . . The Bruins head right back on the road after Thursday, with games Saturday in Montreal and Monday in Pittsburgh.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com.

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