For one of them, the final twenty minutes of Game 7 would be the last hockey they played this season. Tuukka Rask and Frederick Andersen entered the third period of Wednesday night’s decider on starkly different trajectories and came close to swapping one for the other before the night was out.
Rask had given up four goals through two periods, including two Patrick Marleau tallies within the opening six minutes. He was hardly to blame for all four goals, but Bruins fans would likely have done just that if the 4-3 scoreline held and the team was eliminated. After all, the Finnish goaltender was coming off a Game 5 in which he got yanked, followed by a 27 save performance in Game 6 that was overshadowed by his Toronto counterpart.
Andersen made 74 saves in those two games, both Maple Leafs victories. Three pucks made it past him in the first two periods of Game 7, but it looked like his side would again prevail and he’d earn the plaudits. Then the third period began.
Four Boston goals later, the narrative had tilted, if not flipped.
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Torey Krug equalized, Jake DeBrusk broke the deadlock, David Pastrnak added a cushion, and Brad Marchand capped off the night with an empty-netter. With that, the Bruins are headed to the second round for a meeting with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Rask shut the Maple Leafs out in the final twenty minutes. After the game, he was asked if his confidence wavered after giving up the fourth goal six minutes into the second period.
“It can’t in that situation,” Rask said. “You try to stay tall there, play your angles right, and make some saves. It’s a little bit easier when you have experience from that kind of game so I was trying to stay calm and just battle through.”
His head coach wasn’t worried about Rask’s ability to protect a lead, if the Bruins could create one.
“He got hot there in the second period, so we stuck with it, but I don’t think there was a doubt that if we got ourselves back tied or in the lead, that Tuukka would be fine down the stretch,” Bruce Cassidy said.
For his part, Andersen said that the Bruins came out in the third period and played “desperate hockey.” The Maple Leafs goaltender will take a few lessons from the Game 7 experience and put them to use next season.
“I think we can learn a lot by playing a team like Boston,” Andersen said. “They’re for real. I think they’re a good team, lot of good lines that can give you trouble, and we’ve got to learn from that. I thought we made some really good adjustments throughout the series…but pretty empty feeling right now.”
Tuukka Rask has a quicker turnaround for implementing any lessons he learned at the TD Garden. The Bruins take on the Lighting at 3 p.m. on Saturday.