No matter the outcome of any game, he’ll give it to you straight.
That was the case again after Boston defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 in overtime Monday night at TD Garden. The Bruins played four times last week, had Sunday off and were prepared to host the Penguins, a team that entered the game only two points behind them for the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
Despite the win, the Bruins were far from satisfied with their game, which caused Rask, captain Zdeno Chara and coach Claude Julien to pick apart the victory as though Boston had lost the game.
“It’s something you might expect from a Monday night game. It’s a case of Mondays, right?” Rask said. “You’re not fully awake and you’re in a blur, and that’s what it felt like. The people in the stands weren’t in it at some points and it reflects on hockey teams too.”
A case of the Mondays?
Maybe Rask has been watching the cult movie “Office Space” to come up with a line like that. But the Bruins definitely finished with more flare as Torey Krug’s goal only 34 seconds into overtime gave the Bruins the victory.
“Overall it was a tough night, a grinding night,” Julien said. “Maybe tonight we weren’t totally on and we had to work hard to make things happen. Some nights are not as easy as others and tonight was one of those that we had to grind it out. The sharpness didn’t seem to be there.”
Despite a 2-0 lead after the opening period, the Bruins did not play as well as they wanted, and if it weren’t for Rask’s 10-save performance in the first, the Penguins easily could have had the lead. Pittsburgh tied it at two in the second period on a pair of goals by James Neal. Chara scored with 5:15 remaining in the third, but even that lead didn’t hold.
“It wasn’t our best game,” Chara said. “It was one of those games that things were happening for us slow. We weren’t as quick as some other nights, but that’s going to happen throughout the heavy schedule.”
After a hit-and-miss first period for Boston, the Bruins regrouped in the second and third. It appeared the home team would win in regulation but the Penguins pulled their goalie for the extra attacker and with three-tenths of a second remaining in the third period, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby tied the game at 3-3.
“The puck came to the right spot at the right time to the right player and he tied the game,” Chara said. “But we found a way to score in OT and that’s important. It was a big win.”
The Bruins’ record shows a string of success as they've posted an 8-1-1 record in the past 10 games. They own the top spot in the Eastern Conference with 34 points. Still, they’re not playing their best hockey 24 games into the season. The signs are visible but it’s hard to judge exactly how much potential this team has.
“It’s going to happen that you’re not going to play a great 82-game season, but we’ve got to make sure we’re more focused and attached more emotionally and physically,” Chara said.
From an overall team standpoint, to a man, the Bruins weren’t totally satisfied with their win over the Penguins. The saving grace was Boston didn’t panic after Crosby’s late goal. Instead the Bruins came out strong in the overtime and won it.
In fact, Monday's win was their third consecutive overtime game and their sixth this season. Boston is 3-0 during the extra period and 1-2 in shootouts.
“We’ve been through these kinds of situations before and the experience of that has helped us out. We were calm and just got ourselves ready for the overtime,” Julien said. “To me, when you get scored on like that late it can be devastating for certain teams. It just made us a littler hungrier. We went out there, showed some character and ended it early.”
At the start of overtime, Julien decided to go with two defensemen and two forwards, but once they had the faceoff in the offensive zone, he went with the line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Loui Eriksson, along with Krug on the point.
The Bruins were sending a message that they were going for the win and didn’t want this one to go to a shootout.
“We were off a little bit,” Julien said. “Again, it’s not to say we were a bad team, but we weren’t as sharp as we can be when we’re at the top of our game.”
All four of Boston’s lines are producing. The team is receiving contributions from everyone in the lineup. Rask is the early-season favorite for the Vezina Trophy. Overall, the Bruins have a 16-6-2 record for 34 points.
But they believe there’s more.
It’s a sign of a good team when it beats a legitimate opponent and still isn’t satisfied with the outcome.
“We set the bar high for ourselves and we know how good we can be,” Rask said. “We’ve maybe touched that peak at times, but we haven’t been there consistently throughout the 60-minute games.”