Rask shows character in bouncing back

BOSTON -- Following the Bruins’ 3-2 loss to the Penguins on Saturday, goalie Tuukka Rask, who allowed three goals on 24 shots, did what he always does after a bad game, facing the music and telling the media that he could have been better. But Rask wasn’t the only one unhappy with his play, as coach Claude Julien didn’t pull any punches when asked about his team allowing two power-play goals.

“You’re not going to point a finger, but your goaltender’s got to make some saves too at the right time,” Julien said Saturday. “We needed some timely saves.”

After Julien found out that his goalie was admitting fault and knew he could be better, the coach decided to give Rask a chance to redeem himself right away and started him for the second straight day in Sunday's matinee against Florida. Not only did Rask hold the Panthers’ power play off the scoreboard (0-for-2), he earned his fourth shutout of the season with a 28-save performance that helped the Bruins snap a four-game losing streak.

Julien, who has been critical of Rask’s lack of timely saves at other points this season, was quick to credit his goalie for bouncing back with a perfect performance in the 3-0 win.

“I thought after last night, especially how he stood tall and said, ‘I should’ve had a couple of goals,’ I thought it was important for me to put him back and say ‘here’s an opportunity to go out and battle back and the quicker the better’ and he responded well,” Julien said. “I texted him right after the game last night and said, ‘You’re back in there tomorrow’. So I was glad to see that he played extremely well and that shows a lot about his character.”

Rask’s teammates also were impressed with his ability to put a tough game behind him only a day later.

“Tuukka’s got a lot of character, and he’s played well all year for us, and today was a perfect example,” forward Patrice Bergeron said. “He made some huge saves. Even in the first, early on he made some great pad saves on the rebound. When you see a play like that, it gives us energy to keep going to play in front of him the way we should, and it was great to see his performance this afternoon.”

Rask was asked after the win if it motivates him when Julien is openly critical of him. As expected, he was a bit uncomfortable answering the question but acknowledged that it does.

“I don’t know. What do you want me to say? I mean, yeah, it does,” Rask said. “I wasn’t happy about my performance. So I’m glad I’m on the same page as the coach. The second goal was a slap shot five-hole and the third was short-side low blocker and I don’t let in those goals if I’m on top of my game. It’s 1-1 going into the third and I let in a goal, 2-1 and then another and 3-1, so that’s unusual for me and I wasn’t happy about that.”

Rask said it was key for him to hold the Panthers off the scoreboard not just for Sunday but also for his confidence going forward. He agrees with Julien that he must make those timely saves every game.

“I like getting shutouts, but it was a tight game,” Rask said. “They had some chances and I’m more happy that I didn’t let in a goal and let them back in the game. That hasn’t always been the case for me this year and that’s something to take from this game to build on.”

With only four games left in the regular season and the Stanley Cup playoffs set to begin April 30, it would be easy for Rask to start looking ahead. But he is doing his best to isolate each game and take lessons from them that he can use to be on top of his game when it matters most.

“I think for me the best results come if I just focus on one game at a time,” Rask said. “I can’t think of the future too much. I’m just trying to feel good every game and not worry too much about that.”

Still, he couldn’t hide the anticipation that is building up. Rask hasn’t entered the playoffs as the No. 1 goalie since 2010. After helping the Bruins beat the Sabres in six games in that season's Eastern Conference quarterfinals, Rask and the Bruins unraveled in the second round, blowing a 3-0 series lead and losing to the Flyers in seven games. Rask was asked if he thinks back to that historic collapse as motivation now as the playoffs approach.

“Absolutely. You don’t erase those memories too easily,” Rask said with a smile. “I’m hungry to get more and every year we all want to win the Cup. I can’t wait to start that again.”