Rask, Bruins hold off Lightning
BOSTON -- It was a long time coming for Tuukka Rask.
“It’s great. It’s awesome. I needed that one,” the Boston goaltender said after his 19 saves helped the Bruins to a 3-2 victory over the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night -- Rask’s first win since Nov. 5.
Rask, who had lost his last three starts, didn’t have the toughest night. But he made a big save on Nikita Kucherov at the end of the second period and then robbed Ryan Callahan with a stick save with just under three minutes remaining. He also got help from a goal post as a Tyler Johnson shot hit the inside of the far post and ricocheted back across but not in.
It was Boston’s fifth win in its last six games. Backup Anton Khudobin played all four contests of a four-game winning streak before Rask (4-8-2) returned and played in Sunday night’s loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
”I thought I played a good game against Edmonton,“ Rask said. ”I didn’t get the win obviously but good thing I had another opportunity.
“We felt as a group we didn’t play our best game and we wanted to bounce back today and we definitely did.”
With the Lightning on the back end of a back-to-back and at the end of a four-game road trip, the Bruins jumped them in the first period. They threw 19 shots (tying a season high for a period) at Andrei Vasilevskiy and scored twice. They made it 3-0 in the second but the Lightning (17-6-2) came back -- Vasilevskiy keeping them alive.
”We looked like a team that was coming off a back-to-back in the first period. We didn’t have our legs,“ said Steven Stamkos, who scored the second Tampa Bay goal. ”They dominated us. They came out hard. Vassy gave us a chance to stay in this game, which he always does, and we gave ourselves a chance.
“If we had that same mindset that we had in the third to start the game that’s probably a different result, but we just looked like a team that was a step behind and we dug ourselves too big a hole.”
Rookie defenseman Charlie McAvoy had a goal and an assist for Boston (11-8-4). Brad Marchand, returning from a six-game absence because of an undisclosed injury (reportedly a concussion), had two assists and played his usual sparkplug-like game for Boston.
”I felt pretty good,“ said Marchand, who had three shots on goal, a pair of penalties and created traffic for the first Boston goal. ”Our line (with Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak) was clicking pretty well so that makes it a lot easier when we’re going like that.
“Just a lot of fun to get back into it.”
McAvoy, Riley Nash and Torey Krug scored to build the lead before Andrej Sustr (first goal of the season) and Stamkos (first goal in six games) answered for the Lightning, who finished 1-3-0 on their trip.
The Bruins spent much of the third period in their own end. But the Lightning could only score when Stamkos connected on the power play, off a cross-ice pass from Kucherov (his third assist in four games).
“You know they’re going to come at some point, so in the third I was proud of the way we battled and blocked shots,” said Rask, who stood and watched his team threaten to blow the game wide open only to have Vasilevskiy say no. “Besides that penalty kill we did a heck of a job.”
Rask improved to 14-6-1 lifetime against the Lightning, while the Bruins are 17-4-1 in their last 22 games against Tampa Bay.
Said Marchand: “Tuukks played awesome.”
It appeared Nash’s goal, his second of the season, deflected off Sustr and Sustr’s goal glanced off Nash.
Vasilevskiy made 33 saves but fell to 16-4-1. He is 0-2-1 lifetime against Boston.
McAvoy, whose goal was waved off for goaltender interference on Marchand but then reversed on a challenge, registered his third two-point game of the season.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy was just happy to get through a game without any of his players getting hurt, saying, “Speaking of injuries, we didn’t have any tonight, so we’ll have 10 extra minutes to talk about the game.”
NOTES: The Lightning have scored a power-play goal in five straight and 10 of their last 11 games. ... In addition to getting LW Brad Marchand back, the Bruins also got a quicker-than expected return by RW David Backes (colon surgery). David Krejci (upper-body injury) and RW Jacob DeBrusk (upper body) were out. Backes was supposed to miss eight weeks after having some of his colon removed and made it back in 27 days. ... RW J.T. Brown (undisclosed) returned after missing three games for the Lightning. ... Tampa Bay opens a four-game homestand against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. The Bruins visit Philadelphia and Nashville on Friday and Monday.