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Rask sticks with it

Goalie's cage not rattled by poor early results

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / November 18, 2011

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After he backstopped the Bruins to a 2-1 shootout victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets last night at TD Garden, Tuukka Rask, being a bit superstitious, was asked if he would make it a practice to slam his stick against the crossbar in practice before his starts, as he had done Wednesday.

“Maybe I should,’’ Rask said, jokingly. “I made news in Finland, too.’’

On that part, Rask was not kidding.

Word, it seems, travels fast in the Internet age.

So, no doubt, news of Rask’s performance last night would likely stop the presses back home in Tampere.

In his sixth start of the season, Rask made 30 saves in regulation against the pesky Jackets, and then his biggest stop of the night was a stonewall job on Antoine Vermette on Columbus’s final bid in the shootout, to help the Bruins (10-7-0) extend their winning streak to seven.

“Your season is not on the line there, so you don’t want to make too big a deal of that,’’ Rask said when asked about his mind-set during the shootout. “Obviously, it feels great to win, but it feels awful to lose. Having been on both sides of that coin, it’s a real dramatic way to end a hockey game. You’re just trying to stay cool and, you know, be patient.’’

Rask’s patience, though, seemed to be tested during Wednesday’s practice when he allowed a couple of goals during a special-teams drills. He vented his frustration by bashing his stick across the bar.

“I wasn’t mad,’’ Rask said. “I was just kind of half mad, half playing around. We were doing a penalty kill and you obviously had guys not trying to kill penalties in practice, so somebody forgot their guy in front of the net there and so I was slamming my stick. Johnny [Whitesides], the trainer, was laughing at me over in the corner.’’

Suffice it to say, Rask did not use the same stick in last night’s game.

“I got some kind of damage on that stick,’’ he said.

Given his slow start to the season, losing his first two starts by a combined 5-1, Rask’s teammates knew he couldn’t be blamed if he blew his stack.

“He’s had more frustration than he could possibly deserve,’’ said Andrew Ference, who drew a questionable boarding minor that made the last 51.8 seconds of overtime a hairy experience for Rask, who evened his record to 3-3-0, getting 13 goals from his teammates in his three-game winning streak.

“I mean, he’s a really good teammate and obviously a really great goalie,’’ Ference added. “We’ve provided him with enough games he could come in and scream at us and get frustrated, but he never does.’’

Last night, after the Jackets took a 1-0 lead on Derek MacKenzie’s power-play tally at 2:49 of the second period, Rask never lost his composure, emboldened by Adam McQuaid’s tying goal at 4:24 of the second. Rask remained calm in net, even as the Jackets buzzed about, trying to break the tie at the end of regulation and in OT.

In the shootout, Rask stopped Rick Nash’s backhand attempt, then was beaten by Mark Letestu’s wrister that answered Rich Peverley’s goal. Then, after David Krejci beat Jackets goaltender Curtis Sanford, Rask clinched the victory when he stopped Vermette’s backhanded bid.

“Tuukka was the guy that kept us in,’’ said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “You can look at the shot clock [Columbus outshot the Bruins, 31-27], but they also shot a lot of pucks from far away. Nonetheless, I thought Tuukka made big saves when we needed him to and kept us in there and allowed us to win in the shootout.

“How he handled himself in the shootout, I thought, was very good. He’s a goaltender that I think has been working extremely hard in practice, doing extra and everything else. It’s nice to see him back to .500, and hopefully he keeps moving on the positive side.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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